Friday, January 22, 2010

You Better Drive Safely!

As I was browsing thru some websites, I found this article, talking about this new apps for smartphone users! Take a look!!

"When you’re driving a car, there’s not much difference between a pint of vodka and a cellphone. Either one is dangerous.

Researchers at the University of Utah say that talking on a phone has the same effect on your driving skills as drinking. No wonder some states restrict cellphone use in cars; Massachusetts is thinking about a ban on sending text messages while driving.

The best solution is self-discipline - leave that phone alone. Not enough willpower? If you’ve got a smartphone, consider installing a software app that’ll limit your use of the phone when you’re on the road. I’ve been trying a couple of them: iZUP, from Illume Software Inc. in Concord, and ZoomSafer, by ZoomSafer Inc. of Reston, Va.

There’s no need to manually launch these programs when you drive. Just install them, and they’ll know you’re in motion, thanks to the Global Positioning System chips that are found in virtually all smartphones.

GPS can do far more than provide turn-by-turn driving directions. It can also measure the speed at which you’re moving. There are cellphone apps that simply display how fast you’re walking or driving. And there’s an interesting program from Russia called CarSafety that can instantly detect a sudden deceleration - the kind that happens in a car crash. The phone immediately sends a text message to anybody you choose that includes your latitude, longitude, and approximate street address, so that person can call 911. This is one app I didn’t have the nerve to test.

IZUP and ZoomSafer use GPS to determine whether the phone is moving faster than about 5 miles per hour. When the phone passes that speed, the app restricts the user’s ability to place or receive calls, send or receive text messages, or run other software applications like games, e-mail programs, or Web browsers.

You’re not locked completely out of the phone. Each service allows for exceptions. For instance, both programs always let you dial 911. In addition, you can add certain phone numbers to a “whitelist,’’ so that calls from family or close friends can always get through. IZUP lets you whitelist software apps as well. That way, you can continue to run your turn-by-turn navigation software, but not the text messaging.

IZUP runs on BlackBerry smartphones and phones that run Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Mobile software or Google Inc.’s Android operating system. ZoomSafer is available on BlackBerrys, and a Windows version is being tested. But both programs are incompatible with Apple Inc.’s iPhone, because of the iPhone’s notorious inability to run two or more software apps at once. Such multitasking is vital for these safety programs, because they run constantly in the background and go into full effect only when you start to drive.

ZoomSafer offers a number of features not found in iZUP. When you start driving, ZoomSafer plays an audio announcement that your phone is now locked down. You can customize the audio; the company suggests a recording of your child urging you to drive safely.

ZoomSafer also gives you more ways to sidestep its safety features. For instance, it has a temporary shutdown mode that will neutralize the program for up to three hours. This lets a passenger in your car use the phone, but it also allows the driver to cheat. In addition, ZoomSafer lets you place calls using your phone’s hands-free feature even when the phone is otherwise locked down.

IZUP deliberately lacks these bypass features. Mark Thirman, Illume Software’s vice president of business development, noted that researchers have found that hands-free calling reduces driving safety just as much as using the handset. Besides, he said, iZUP is mainly aimed at the parents of teenagers, so the company takes a more hardcore attitude about safety.

IZUP costs $4.95 a month or $49.95 a year for a single user. There’s also an iZUP family plan that’ll cover up to five phones in a household for $9.95 a month or $79.95 a year.

ZoomSafer is much cheaper, at $2.99 a month or a one-time fee of $25.

Of course, the best solution of all is absolutely free. Just drop the phone and drive."

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