In a growing number of countries, texting whilst driving is illegal and increases the chances of a crash even more than alcohol.*
Now, SMS services and infrastructure vendor Telsis has brought to market an all-phones service, DriveSafe, that can lessen the temptation many people feel to text while they are behind the wheel.
While the phone user concentrates on driving safely, DriveSafe automatically replies to any text messages with a short operator-branded reply such as ‘I’m driving at the moment. I’ll read your text as soon as it is safe to do so.’
DriveSafe went live in a network for the first time this week, available free of charge to Vodafone New Zealand’s 2.5m customers in time for the February long weekend holiday when hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders take to the roads.
Vodafone’s director of sales Grant Hopkins says DriveSafe is aimed at helping New Zealanders use their mobiles safely. “Vodafone DriveSafe is designed to take the pressure off when you’re driving and you get a TXT message. It lets the sender know that you can’t reply immediately, without you needing to take your eye off the road. We’re pleased to be able to bring innovations like this to New Zealand and hope it will help drivers think carefully about their actions to reduce the road toll.”
New Zealand Automobile Association motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon welcomes the introduction of Vodafone DriveSafe. “One of the worst things about texting and driving is that drivers know they shouldn’t do it but in many cases just can’t seem to stop themselves when they hear a message arrive. “Vodafone DriveSafe is a simple tool that can help drivers to leave the phone alone. The driver can relax knowing the person who texted them has been sent a reply and, as a bonus, it is spreading the message that texting and driving are a potentially lethal mix. Any distraction is dangerous when driving but texting is especially bad because not only is your mind focusing on the message but your eyes are off the road and at least one of your hands isn’t on the wheel either.”
The launch has been endorsed by the New Zealand Transport Agency. “Texting while driving became illegal two years ago but it remains a significant and unwelcome cause of too many crashes, so it’s great to see Vodafone’s initiative giving people another option to make a safe choice when they are travelling,” says the NZTA’s chief executive, Geoff Dangerfield.
“The NZTA encourages all Vodafone customers to subscribe to DriveSafe and to use it. But we hope this sort of innovation does not stop with one company. Telecommunications has a huge base of customers who use texting to stay in
touch. Expanding an innovation similar to DriveSafe can only have a positive impact on safer journeys for all of us.”
Using Telsis’ innovative SMS technology, DriveSafe is a network service, not a handset app, so it works for any type or age of phone. It requires no downloads or configuration by users, and is simply “always there” for every customer of any mobile network that deploys it. DriveSafe is enabled simply by texting a short command such as ‘drive on’ to a short code,
and turned off by sending ‘drive off’.
Telsis DriveSafe is designed to be quick and easy for mobile operators to install. It works alongside messaging network infrastructure and requires no integration with billing or provisioning systems. Operators will benefit from being able to brand automated DriveSafe responses, and by the service attracting customers from rival networks.
*Studies by The RAC Foundation, University of Otago, Virginia Tech Transport
Institute and others.