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September 29, 2009

Consumers Open to Hands-Free Devices with Texting: Vlingo

Drivers are well aware of the dangers of texting while driving. Yet consumers still continue to practice the habit, according to a Cambridge, Mass.-based mobile voice application maker.

But Vlingo Corp.’s Consumer Mobile Messaging Habits Report revealed consumers have a strong desire for safer, hands-free alternatives. Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they would use voice recognition technology while driving instead of typing if they could speak text or e-mail messages and have incoming messages read to them.
Still, 25 percent of mobile phone users said they drive while texting, yet the general consensus is that the practice should be legally banned. What’s more 83 percent of those surveyed said driving while texting should be illegal.
But if more safety precautions, such as hands-free solutions that let consumers text without typing, become available, 40 percent of respondents said they would favor making driving while texting legal.

Vlingo's survey results come as the U.S. Department of Transportation kicks off The Distracted While Driving Summit Sept. 30 to Oct 1, where experts will address the dangers of text-messaging and other dangers behind the wheel.
Texting while driving has caught the attention of lawmakers in several states as a safety issue. Studies have shown that cell phones and other mobile devices create distractions for drivers, leading to serious accidents, or even fatalities. Even cell phone companies like Verizon (News - Alert) Wireless are supporting states’ efforts to ban texting-and driving. For example, the company supported a California law, which requires drivers to use hands-free devices, and also bans texting while driving.
Text-messaging likely played a role in the tragic accident in Los Angeles last fall in which a commuter train collided with a Union Pacific freighter, killing 25 people. The National Transportation Safety Board said a Metrolink engineer driving the commuter train sent a text message 22 seconds before the crash. The engineer, Robert Sanchez, was among those who died in the Sept. 12, 2008 accident in a northwest Los Angeles suburb.
Earlier this year, nearly 50 people were injured when a Boston trolley operator crashed into a stopped trolley near Government Center Station. The operator, who admitted sending a text message shortly before the accident, was later fired. Since then, the MBTA implemented a ban on cell phone use by operators.
Among teenage drivers, Vlingo’s survey found that 90 percent would use voice recognition while driving. And insurance companies, too, are paying attention.
“Recently we have been approached by several insurances companies who are considering offering safe driver discounts to consumers who use hands-free solutions,” Dave Grannan, CEO of Vlingo, told TMCnet in an interview. “We have over 2 million users and 50 percent of our usage is “in car” and we certainly feel speaking to the phone is safer than looking at the screen while you type.”
Cell phone users have some choices when it comes to hands-free devices, according to Grannan. For example, Vlingo lets BlackBerry and Nokia (News - Alert) users send a text or e-mail message, call a friend, search the Web by speaking into their device, eliminating the need to type on key pad, he said.

Amy Tierney is a Web editor for TMCnet, covering unified communications, telepresence, IP communications industry trends and mobile technologies. To read more of Amy's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Amy Tierney


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