As the battle to curtail texting and driving rages on, law enforcement officials continue to look for ways to discourage drivers from taking the risk.
A cell phone application that disables the phone when a vehicle is traveling over a certain rate of speed may be the answer police departments have sought.
“Prosecutors have now been given great authority to charge a person with assault by auto or vehicular homicide, if it is proven that they were texting while driving,” Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford said. However, she said, the better option is to educate the public and deter the action in the first place.
To that end, the prosecutor’s office and the Ocean County Association of Chiefs of Police have entered into an agreement to purchase the cell phone apps and distribute them to the public at no cost.
“Every parent’s nightmare is that a young driver will drive while intoxicated, exposing himself and others to injury or death. Yet driving while distracted is almost as lethal a practice,” said Beach Haven Police Chief Kevin Kohler, president of the Ocean County Chiefs of Police Association. ”This device temporarily disables the texting and calling mechanism of the cell phone, if the phone is travelling (in a car) at more than 15 miles per hour. If the car is stopped, everything is normal. Simple, yet an effective way to send a message that texting and driving, like drinking and driving, don’t mix.”
“This is an easily installed app for a cell phone, which could mean the difference between life and death for the driver, for other drivers and pedestrians, and will prevent many instances of distracted driving,” Ford said.
The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office is underwriting the cost of a number of these apps and making them available to the public at no charge. The cost of these apps (about $5) is not paid for at public expense, but rather through the use of drug forfeiture monies.
“While this safe driving initiative is targeting youthful drivers, it is something that we all should consider installing on our phones, especially in light of the new laws enhancing the penalties for texting while driving,” Ford said. “If a parent gives a kid a cell phone, that parent should make sure this app or a similar one is installed on that cell phone. You can preach to kids about safe driving practices, and maybe they will listen. But this app is a 100 percent cure for distracted driving.”
A limited number of apps will be available at no cost to the public, as a pilot project in Ocean County. Interested people should contact the Prosecutor’s office at 732-929-2027 or their local Chief of Police for more information.