450,000 Accidents Caused by Texting Each Year
Mandi Sorohan arrived at a rest stop in Morgan County in a van carrying a bump sticker which serves as a remembrance and a warning for anyone driving near her.
The sticker demands drivers not to text behind the wheel. It carries the name of her 18- year-old son, Caleb, who crashed and died while texting in 2009. The state's ban of texting is called Caleb's law.
Sorohan agreed to meet consumer investigator Jim Strickland. She wanted to see a device he brought called the Cellcontrol.
"This is awesome. You can guarantee your kids are not going to be doing this while they're driving," said Sorohan.
Strickland showed Sorohan video he had shot earlier with the vice president of Cellcontrol, Chuck Cox. Cox plugged the device into the same socket where they read a car's emissions.
"Teenagers, even parents, won't be able to text and drive," Cox said as he installed the device.
As Strickland drove, Cox was in the passenger seat.
Whenever the car was moving, texting stopped dead.
A warning screen appeared on his smartphone. The user decides which phones get disabled and can even control which numbers the phone will voice call. The phone is always able to call 911.
If anyone unplugs it, the controlling user gets an email alert.
"We lose about 6,000 (people) a year to distracted driving and 450,000 accidents. It's a big problem," said Cox.
Cox explained the user must register the device via the web, then download an app to each phone to be controlled.
Most major smartphones are compatible, but a certification for iPhone is still weeks away.
Cox said the laws against texting and driving have had an unintended backfire.
"People, when it wasn't illegal, would be texting and driving near the steering wheel. Now that it's illegal they drop it to their lap. As a consequence it's even more dangerous," Cox said.
Sorohan said police are also not enthused about enforcement because pulling texting records to make a case is a painstaking process.
She said parents can use the device in concert with setting a good example at home.
"They need to put their phone away as soon as they get in the car. That needs to the rule," Sorohan said.