*The following is excerpted from an online article from HealthDay.
A smartphone app that cuts off teenagers' cell service when they turn on the car ignition may help reduce their accident risk, a preliminary new study suggests.
Teens appreciate full well that texting is risky, said study lead author Dr. Beth Ebel, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. "And they, like all of us, almost uniformly know that it's illegal to text while driving, and yet still there's the compulsion to do it. So it's kind of a great challenge for public health."
Her research team wondered if there was a feasible way for technology "to basically stop the bell from ringing," Ebel said. That led to this experimental device that blocks cellphone transmission once the car starts.
The results of Ebel's investigation were presented in San Diego at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which funded this study, car crashes are the leading cause of accidental death among American teens, with phone use behind the wheel raising teen accident risk by roughly 24 times.
For the study, investigators divided 29 drivers between 15 and 18 years of age into three groups that were followed for six months.
Cars driven by the first group were left as is, while the second group's cars were outfitted with a video camera mounted to the rearview mirror and linked to an accelerometer. The bi-directional camera kept an interior/exterior record of all high-risk driving "events," such as sudden braking or swerving, for later parental/driver review.
The third group's cars were outfitted with the camera plus a programmable device that blocked all calls and texts on smartphones linked via app to the car's ignition. Ebel said the phone-block device and app are inexpensive and widely commercially available. The camera device is sometimes provided by car insurance companies for free to new drivers, she noted.
Teens who drove cars outfitted with either the camera alone or the camera plus the phone-blocking technology saw their frequency of high-risk driving events drop by almost 80 percent, the researchers found.