It’s so simple to say “Don’t text and drive,” and I really commend AT&T for their It Can Wait campaign, which is spreading the message to put the phone down while in the car. Awareness is a big part of the texting-while-driving issue. But, it’s only one part of the problem.
Awareness, legislation and technology must combine to make our roads safer. Texting while driving has now surpassed drinking and driving as the #1 killer of teens. (source) Yes, that is correct. And, we must assume that these stats are, in reality, higher, as it takes time to analyze all the data and the use of texting increases every day. In a nutshell, this is scary stuff.
So, catchy slogans, documentaries, speakers at high schools … these all are a part of the solution. YES. A big part. That is why in today’s post we have photo galleries with stats and last texts messages — to help spread the word and raise awareness.
But, it takes more than this. What about legislation? We have anti-texting while driving laws in most states, but not all. But, did you know that in Tennessee (source) it is legal to text at a red light? It’s also legal in New York and other states. I have done it for years, but I finally stopped. It’s not safe.
The third prong of this attack–technology–is where there is tremendous room for gains. The tools already exist and if you are an Android user, lucky you; there are apps aplenty. iPhone users? You are out of luck. Oh, I am serious. NO OPTIONS. Let’s dive into this a bit further. (Can you feel my ire?)
The most appealing tool is the app that allows for auto-responding to texts. Imagine if your phone could automatically send a text saying, “I’m driving and will get back to you as soon as I can.” Wouldn’t that be fabulous? The technology exists. It’s free. Download it to your Android. Save a life. (Sorry, it’s not available for your iPhone.)
And, for everyone who is saying, “What if I’m on a bus? A passenger? How will it know?” No worries. Press a button to override and you are on your way. This is about allowing the driver to purposefully disconnect without worrying about all the un-replied to messages they are receiving. It’s giving customers the tools to make good decisions.
And, Siri lovers? Wake up call: Voice-to-text is far more dangerous, even under ideal conditions, than cell phone use (source) A Texas A&M study shows that there is no perceivable safety difference between voice texting and manual texting. (source) Yep. For the texting-while-driving issue, Siri is not the answer, it’s actually one of the problems.
If this does not sound like a big deal to you, talk to a teenager. Simply asking them not to respond to a text during dinner is difficult–you can almost see their blood pressure rise knowing that there are texts waiting for them, that are (gasp) unanswered! We are asking kids getting behind the wheel not to text while driving. They know it’s dangerous. But, they don’t have fully developed brains (science talking, not me) and they don’t have the discipline to ignore the text. 77% of teens are confident that they can safely text and drive (source). The auto-responder relieves this stress point, alerting their friends that they are driving, which is a perfectly acceptable reason, no matter your age, not to be in the current conversation. Their friends know because of the auto-responder and that’s all anyone wants to be able to do: auto respond.
If you have an iPhone, you can activate “do not disturb” so that you don’t hear the ping of the text or a call coming in. You can also physically hand your phone to someone in the car and designate them as your texter. I do this everyday. I adore my iPhone (although a little less after the research for this post), but If you are receiving a text from me between the hours of 3:30 – 7:30, there is a good chance that my 9, 12 or 14 year old is typing that text, learning dictation skills.
iPhones. Androids. What’s the difference? iPhones are made by Apple. All apps must be approved by Apple as each is part of their user experience, which they take very seriously. The iPhone operating system is called their iOS. Android is the Google operating system and it’s cheap for phone manufacturers to make their own “smartphones.” Android now accounts for 51% of all smartphones (iPhones make up 45%). But, Android allows apps that have far more control of the phone than Apple’s iOS allows. This means almost anyone can make an app for the Android and there is much less of an approval process (except perhaps on porn). This causes problems. Spam texting and viruses are part of those problems. So, for safety reasons, Apple has strict restrictions for its iOS system and won’t allow 3rd party auto-responders.
But, here is the bugger of this explanation. Software like the Otter app is just software. Apple could actually make this a part of their own operating system, meaning it would be there for EVERYONE who buys their product, eliminating the 3rd party auto-responding. It would be from THEM, from Apple. I mean, don’t they value their customers enough to add this feature? A problem that is the #1 killer of teens? And, hey, if they don’t want to add it to their operating system, they could, with the directive from up above (hello Tim Cook, CEO of Apple), make this app work within two weeks. You cannot convince me that I’m talking gibberish. They can do this. They just need hear from more than just one person. They need to hear from you. From your family. From your schools. From your friends.
What you can do RIGHT NOW!
I’m so impressed with Otter for starting a petition to Apple asking Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, to open iOS to auto-responder texting applications, as this one action will save lives. The petition is through Change.org and all you need to do is click and sign it. Then put in on your FB page. Email it to friends. Let’s stop this. Let’s spread the word. Let’s also demand more from our technology. In the end, we are their customers.
Click here to sign this petition. (remember to share with your friends)
Lastly, we can scream about apps all we want, but really what we need is for Apple, other phone companies and automobile companies to make these tools standard. After talking with Erik Wood at Otter, he’s right: the biggest impact will be made when our phones come with this technology already installed and when car companies integrate with your phone to make these tools work. Then, instead of one at a time, we get millions at a time. But, in the meantime, I still want an auto-responder app on my iPhone. Is that too much to ask?
Please share this on Facebook, Tweet it, Pin the facts. We need spread awareness and cause change and I believe that with YOU, we can do it!