KWWL-TV: New Software Can Prevent Texting While Driving

Tuesday, February 2, 2010
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It's an issue that lawmakers in several states have been tackling lately: the use of cell phones to send text messages, while driving. But some researchers are finding ways to actually prevent texting while driving, rather than simply making it illegal.

The University of Iowa may play a key role in that movement.

"Attention validation" software has been developed by the engineering firm PM&L in Rochester, New York.

It detects vehicle movement. Once a text message is received, the software requires the cell phone's user to press a series of random buttons. If the user fails, texting is locked until the vehicle is at rest for at least three minutes. It's part of a nationwide effort to find new solutions to distracted driving, according to Dr. Tim Brown, a researcher at the University of Iowa's National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS).

"There's newer technology that's coming out; voice recognition is becoming more prominent," said Dr. Brown in an interview Tuesday.

Brown says the NADS which is well-equipped to test different anti-texting programs. "When you're texting, your odds of being in a crash are 23 times higher than when you're just driving normally," he explained. "We've got a large full-motion simulator here, we've got a static simulator, and we've also got some smaller portable simulators that we use, so we've gotten a fair amount of interest from a number of different companies."

According to PM&L, they're working on testing their "attention validation" software with the University of Iowa. They hope testing will reveal not only the effectiveness, but the safety, of their program.

"If it's found that it is compounded by whatever variable, we will make adjustments to make sure that we are not causing more distraction," said Craig Lamb of PM&L.

Brown says the simulator will be busy with research projects over the next six months, as the texting and driving epidemic has the full attention of lawmakers.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith