While a new California state law effective January 2013 makes it legal for adults to text and drive with hands free technology, keep in mind that teens under 18 years of age are still required to refrain from using any cyber communications device (except in case of emergency).
According to Erik Caswell, General Manager of A1 Driving School and Mid Town Driving School in Sacramento, attention blindness is a serious concern with distracted driving in general, and texting is especially difficult to resist. “I see it in the classroom training,” Caswell said, “Students have a hard time paying attention to the instructor because they are actually focused on what is happening with their mobile device.”
To help train teens to remain focused on driving and other important activities in life, Caswell recommends the Otter App, a text life management application developed by Erik Wood, a concerned parent in Seattle, Washington. “This app is fantastic!” Caswell declared. “It is a great tool to help kids stay focused on homework, classroom time, as well as driving.”
The assumption of the new hands-free texting law is that voice activated texting is reasonably safe to do while driving. Yet, according to a report in Atlantic Cities, recent studies prove that it is not possible to safely drive while operating another instrument, even if it is voice activated.
Caswell indicated that while driving with students, he observes a sense of urgency to reply to incoming texts as the phone is vibrating in the cup holder. “They know something just came in, and they are behind the wheel,” Caswell said. “While they don’t pick it up, you know the impulse is there. They are not whole heartedly thinking about driving.”
Wood developed the Otter application to manage texting because his three year old daughter was nearly killed by a woman who was engrossed with texting while driving. “As I watched the woman staring at her mobile phone, her hands propped against the steering wheel, whizzing past my daughter narrowly missing her in the crosswalk two steps in front of me, I realized texting and driving is not a teen problem,” Wood said. “It is a human problem of paying proper attention period.”
In general, Caswell too is concerned that mobile connectivity is training us to be impatient, impetuous and less thoughtful about the moment and current activity at hand. “This fast pace of life is training our children to respond to devices on demand, 24 hours a day,” Caswell said. “With the Otter App, parents can help their teens take charge of incoming texts by setting up auto responses during the times they need to pay attention to something else, like a face-to-face conversation, homework, or watching the movie in the theater.”
The Otter App is free for Android phones, and a one time $3.99 download fee for Blackberry devices; there are no recurring fees. For more about pricing and platforms go to: Otter App.
Recently, the Otter app was successfully loaded and used in the Ford cars with dashboard features synching smart phone functionality.
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