Smartphone app aims to reign in distracted driving

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WESTPORT, Connecticut -- An inventor is working on a device and application that will make it impossible for people to call or text while driving.

The dangers of distracted driving have become clearer recently, and in Utah a ban on teenagers using cellphones while driving takes effect Tuesday. Inventor Scott Rownin, owner of SafeRide, said his device is “like Nicorette for texting.”

“What we do is, when you lock the phone we first mute the audio, so all the notifications and alarms go away, and we disable the hardware buttons, so basically the temptation to use your phone will go away,” he said.

Rownin’s device, which is expected to be available in July, doesn’t send a jamming signal to the cellphone, as that is prohibited by the FCC. Instead, the device disables certain functions by way of Bluetooth.

“We're using Bluetooth to basically tell your phone you’re in the car, and your phone does all the heavy lifting,” he said. “And, through some proprietary algorithms, we’re able to determine that the motion is consistent with driving.”

Rownin’s device plugs into the phone and interfaces with the accompanying smartphone app. Rownin said cellphones distract drivers in multiple ways, but his device prevents all three.

“One of the things about distracted driving is it comes in three classifications there’s visual, manual and conative distracted driving - a cellphone does all three,” he said. “Eventually it will help you and others put their phones down and just drive.”