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How apps can reduce texting and driving

Most people have heard the warnings and frightening statistics about the dangers of texting while driving. Further, here in Illinois, texting while driving is illegal, as is using a handheld phone at all.

However, we all know that when we're expecting a message about an important business deal or we're waiting for our kids to tell us they got home safely, temptation to read and/or respond to a text can be overwhelming. It can be even more so for teen drivers who've never known a time when they can't communicate with all of their friends 24/7.

So how do we overcome this temptation and help keep our kids from developing this dangerous, and potentially fatal, habit? It's smart to turn your phone off when you get into the car and keep it out of reach. To further help drivers resist the temptation to stay in touch while driving, there are free apps that can block texts and calls, silence notifications of incoming calls and messages and help parents monitor their kids' cellphone use while they're driving. For example:

-- AT&T's DriveMode silences alerts of incoming messages whenever the vehicle is moving at 15 miles per hour or more. It also lets parents know if the app has been turned off.

-- Verizon's Live2Txt app prevents you from hearing any incoming calls, texts or other notifications and even responds with a message to the sender that you're not able to respond.

There are also apps available that allow parents to not just restrict their kids' phone use while driving, but lets them monitor things like speed and other safety issues.

While all of this new technology can help protect those of us who use it, it can't guarantee that other drivers will be so careful. When auto accidents occur, law enforcement officers can look at drivers' cellphones to determine whether they were in use just before or during the accident. This can impact not only any criminal charges against an at-fault driver, but also the ability for victims to get compensation in civil court.

Source: Verizon Wireless, "Apps to block texting while driving," accessed Dec. 18, 2015

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