There are a number of apps and subscription services now available to prevent drivers from dialing phones or texting behind the wheel. The problem is, most of them prevent users from operating the phone whether they’re driving or not. But just as phones are getting smarter, so are the tools to reduce the temptation to text behind the wheel.
Cellcontrol is the maker of one of those solutions, which consists of a module that plugs into the vehicle’s OBD II diagnostic port to capture driving data. It blocks the phone from being used while the car is in motion with a downloadable app.
But the company’s new DriveID takes the technology a step further by replacing the OBD II module with a windshield-mounted sensor that can tell whether the phone is on the right or left side of the car, allowing or blocking phone use accordingly.
Slide behind the wheel, and phone use is limited to a predetermined menu of options such as navigation, music, or hands-free calls using Bluetooth. Pass the phone to a passenger and full phone functionality is restored. Emergency calls to 911 are allowed at any time.
See our guide to distracted driving to learn more about the dangers of distractions behind the wheel.
The specific menu of what is and is not allowed while driving can be set up by a parent or other administrator through a password-protected page on the Cellcontrol website. A wide variety of customizable options allow the parent to make exceptions for certain numbers, such as their own, or prohibit any phone use other than 911 while the car is moving.
Once everything is set up, incoming calls and text messages get a response saying the driver is unavailable, and voice and text messages are saved for later.
We had a chance to take a brief demo drive with DriveID and found it worked as advertised. It activated as soon as the car was in motion, with the phone display indicating DriveID was on the job. A buffer zone in the middle of the car effectively prohibits the driver from cheating by holding a phone in an outstretched hand. One quirk we noticed is that a rear-seat passenger sitting behind the driver is also blocked from using the phone.
The system provides fleet operators and parents a means of curbing dangerous behavior behind the wheel. The distinction between driver- and passenger-side addresses a common criticism of other antidistraction solutions.
DriveID goes on sale in the fall, and it is compatible with Android, Blackberry, iOS, and Windows platforms. For personal (aka "family") use, there is an $89 one-time cost.
Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.