An “Ignition Interlock” for Texting? Don’t Worry — It’s On the Way.

“There ought to be a law.“

That’s what people say when they feel threatened by some practice. Laws are meant to protect people from unnecessary danger, after all.

Locxked-SmartphoneThe problem is, when there is a law, it’s often flouted. Drunk driving, for instance: all too many people continue to drink and drive, and place other drivers and pedestrians in danger, despite the laws against it.

So instead we say, “There ought to be a device,” and someone invents one. In the case of drunk driving, it’s the ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

The interlock device helps to prevent behavior that puts people in danger. And while drunk and drugged driving are still the worst hazards out there, distracted driving – especially using cellphones to talk and text – is a close second. All across the country people are looking away from the road to send a text or tweet, and they’re causing horrific crashes.

There ought to be a law. And in fact, there are already quite a few, and they’re getting stronger. Vermont has banned all cellphone use while driving – that means no talking, no Instagram, no maps or social media. Other states have added weight to the penalties for causing a crash while using an electronic device.

And if people flout the law? The next step is an “ignition interlock” for cellphone use. A number of developers in different fields are on it.

  • Esurance offers a telematics device as part of its DriveSafe program for teens. The device limits cellphone use while driving
  • Many apps are available that block incoming texts and calls while driving. Some send a response to the effect that, “I’m driving – I’ll reply to you when I’m parked safely.” You turn them on before driving
  • There are apps which cut off texts, emails, and calls when they detect the vehicle is moving

Will these devices take off, as the ignition interlock has? Yes, if the laws now being enacted are not enough to stop drivers from texting and calling on the road. Within ten years, we can expect courts to order blocking software or hardware for texting offenders. Why? Because there needs to be a law, and failing that, a device, to keep the roads safe.