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Sprint unveils new smart phone app to combat distracted driving

Consumer Reports News: September 12, 2011 11:23 AM

Sprint is the latest cell-phone carrier to join in the fight against distracted driving by announcing a new app that disables smart phone functions while driving.

Called Sprint Drive First, the app locks the phone when the car is moving over 10 mph and it is being marketed to parents of teenagers. When using the application, calls will go automatically to voice mail. Alerts for email or texts will be silenced when activated, and an automated, customizable message will be sent as a response. If the app no longer detects the car is moving, the cell phone will resume functionality. To allow for traffic delays, it won’t unlock the phone unless the vehicle is idle for a few minutes.

The device can be unlocked with Exit and 911 buttons, which can override the app, but parents can choose to be notified when this occurs. Parents can also choose up to five numbers that can ring through the locked phone and three apps that remain usable when the car is in motion, such as navigation or music.

The app will cost $2 a month and be available on Android phones at launch. Availability will expand to Blackberry in the near future.

Sprint is not the first carrier to work to prevent distracted driving. AT&T just unveiled a similar app last week for Blackberry users that sends an auto-reply to texts, emails, and phone calls. Last year, AT&T also unveiled a powerful anti-distracted driving video. In January, T-Mobile was the first cell-phone carrier to announce an app to limit smart phone functions behind the wheel.

Distracted driving has been at the forefront of Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s agenda to reduce highway fatalities and cell phone providers are responding to his push.

Whether you choose to use an app or turn the phone off yourself, talking or texting behind the wheel is risky behavior. It endangers yourself and creates risks to others.

For more on distracted driving, including our review of non-carrier apps, see our investigative report. Also, see our special section on distracted driving and teen safety.

Liza Barth

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