Technology to prevent teens' driving distractions

WESTLAKE, Ohio (WEWS) - April is distracted driving month. Despite some scary statistics out there, about half of all teens admit to texting while driving. Concerned parents may want to consider fighting technology with technology.

"Everyone gets distracted. The roads are busy. Everyone's in a hurry," said Heidi Cullinan, a mother from Bay Village, Ohio.

Cullinan is concerned about distracted drivers now more than ever, because her teenage son is learning how to drive. She and many other parents offer this advice to their beginning drivers.

"Just not to text and drive. Not to answer your phone. Keep your eyes on the road," said Cullinan.

You're 25 times more likely to crash if you text and drive. To prove the danger, drivers ed students at Top Driver Driving School in Ohio go through an exercise called "Spot the Hazard." They are told to text on their cell phones while watching a video of a cars on the road. They have to look out for hazards like jaywalkers.

"Then we go through the film a second time and they have to discover what they've missed. And a lot of times it's very eye-opening to them," said Jim Werts, the northeast Ohio training manager for Top Driver.

Students seemed to get the message.

"It's really interesting because you're texting and you're not watching the road, so you're missing out on pedestrians," said 16-year-old student Michelle Birsan.

"I'm already terrified of getting in car accidents,16-year-old Kevin Waitrovich said."So I probably won't be texting at all."

There are smartphone apps designed to limit texting behind the wheel, like iZup , Cellcontrol , ZoomSafer and SafeCell . They rely on your phone's GPS to calculate your speed. When the car moves, the apps limit your phone's functions.

Consumer Reports checked out several of these apps. They like because it reads text messages to you. You can answer out loud and it sends your message back as a text. It keeps your hands on the wheel, and your eyes on the road.

Overall they thought tXtBlocker was the most effective system. Parents can install it on a teen's phone for $7 a month. When the phone is in a moving car, tXtBlocker blocks any incoming messages and disables the keypad.

All of the apps still allow you to dial 911. They also let you set up certain phone numbers in advance. The ones you program will work, even when everything else is blocked.

Ohio father John Skelly had never heard of these apps, but liked the idea for his children.

Anything to keep the kids safer. The new technology's the way to go. It's here to stay," said Skelly.

For all drivers, the best and least expensive way to stay safe is to simply turn off your phone when you're in the driver's seat.

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