Everyone knows it’s stupid and dangerous to text while driving, an now, in Florida, it’s even illegal. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean drivers are shutting off their cell phones any more often than they did before the ban, but TXT Shield, a new, free smart phone app from Kirk-Pinkerton, just might change all that.
The data is shocking. Even as the total number of traffic fatalities in America has declined, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that the number of fatalities caused by “distracted driving” has actually increased.
One big reason? Texting. The Traffic Safety Administration found that texting while driving increases one’s “crash risk” by a factor of 23. Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. Doesn’t sound like much, but if you’re driving at 55 miles per hour, you can drive the length of a football field in 4.6 seconds.
Stats like those led the Florida Legislature to ban texting while driving in 2013, but it’s unclear if the measure is having the impact lawmakers hoped for. In the law’s first year, police only cited 1,800 drivers for violating the rule, way fewer than more mundane citations like the failure to dim one’s lights.
“I was shocked to find out that distracted driving contributes to 1.5 million car accidents a year,” says Kirk-Pinkerton CEO and personal injury attorney Bill Robertson. The firm wanted to help find a solution, and so Kirk-Pinkerton reached out to an independent software developer with a cool idea: How about an app that disables texting while a phone is in motion?
The result is TXT Shield, a new, free Android app that disables texting whenever your phone detects that you are moving at a speed greater than 10 miles per hour. You don’t ever have to turn the app on or off—it will automatically kick in whenever you’re on the road and then shut off when you come to a stop. An iPhone version is in the works, and will also be available for free soon.
TXT Shield is particularly useful for parents of young drivers who want to make sure their kids are keeping their eyes on the road.
“Kids in particular are addicted to their phones, and we want to make sure they don’t endanger themselves or anyone else on the road, just like we do our best to prevent them from drinking and driving,” says Robertson. “This app allows us to do something to prevent texting altogether. At a young age, kids think they’re bulletproof and that nothing bad will ever happen to them. We need to protect them from themselves and protect our families from them as well.”
Worried about missing texts from your boss or your spouse? While the app blocks any incoming text message, it will also automatically send a response alerting the person texting you that you are occupied and will get back to him or her later.
It’s a perfect, simple app that’s making a difference in the fight against distracted driving. TXT Shield is saving lives.