Atlantic Cities

Will This Tiny Tool Stop Teens From Texting While Driving?

Will This Tiny Tool Stop Teens From Texting While Driving?
ESURANCE

American teenagers aren't as obsessed with driving as they used to be, but the ones who do get behind the wheel are still far more dangerous than older drivers. Youngsters between 16 and 19 drive too fast and brake too late. They are especially bad at driving drunk. They also play with their phones too much, which is what prompted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to approve a plan to reduce texting while driving. 

On Wednesday, Cuomo signed off on Esurance's plan to offer a device called DriveSafe free to all Esurance customers. While there's no shortage of apps that can disable a driver's smart phone (the military and even churches have been jamming cell phone signals for a while now), DriveSafe is a next-level cell phone blocking device, and then some.

The DriveSafe device can be inserted into the onboard diagnostics port of any non-hybrid/electric car made after 1996. The device communicates via Bluetooth with the Esurance smart phone app. Parents can then fine-tune what their kids' phones can do. "Customize block lists so they can't tweet but can still access navigation apps and receive calls from you," Esurance suggests. Or simply disable texting. Parents can literally do anything they want. Regardless of what parents do, the phones will still be able to call 911. 

The device not only limits cell phone use, it also tracks every aspect of a teen's drive: how fast they went, how quickly they accelerated, how hard they braked, and where they went. It's basically the one telematics device to rule them all. 

After a teen has gone for a drive, parents receive a message like this one:

And what if "Bradford" tries to remove this device from the car? Mother and father get a little note alerting them that Bradford has been bad. Parental spying just got a whole lot easier. Not an Esurance customer? A device called Cellcontrol* that can do a lot of the same things. 

Teens, get used to it. This is America; someone is going to be spying on you for the rest of your life. 

*Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the company that distributes the device Cellcontrol. While Cellcontrol previously had a distribution deal with the Schoche company, that partnership no longer exists and Cellcontrol handles its own distribution. 

Mike Riggs is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

Join the Discussion