Miscellaneous Ramblings

Car and Driver and Chrysler Launch Free Txt U L8r App

Charles Moore - 2010.10.11 - Tip Jar

I've been a Car and Driver reader since the magazine's legendary and somewhat notorious March 1964 issue, whose cover story purported to pit an upstart Pontiac Tempest GTO against the original Ferrari GTO (from which General Motors had "borrowed" the model name). That will give you some inkling of how ancient I am, but never mind. I'm a fan.

As Don Sherman, whose writing and editorial career at Car and Driver spanned five decades - from the '60s to the '00s - wrote in 1984 on its 20th anniversary, that article was the tipping point, "the moment when Car and Driver became a real grown-up magazine" rather than just another auto-enthusiast journal. Indeed, I accord substantial credit to Car and Driver and its competitor, Road & Track (I still subscribe to both), and writers like the late Warren Weith, Brock Yates, David E. Davis Jr. at C and D, and the late Henry N. Manney and John R. Bond at R&T for my own formation as a writer and journalist.

Anyway, I'm delighted - although not surprised - that Car and Driver (now boasting the largest audience of any monthly automotive magazine), in cooperation with Fiat-owned Chrysler Group LLC, is taking a proactive stance against a particular bête noire of mine - the texting while driving (TWD) pandemic that has emerged as one of our era's most pernicious driving hazards around the globe. (See last week's Texting While Driving: A Deadly Epidemic.)

Popular infatuation with texting has grown from 4.1 trillion text messages in all of 2008 to more than 1.6 trillion text messages per day in 2010, a phenomenon whose side-effects, such as death and injury due to car crashes caused by TWD, have yet to be fully quantified.

A study released Sept. 26 by the American Journal of Public Health found that distracted driving fatalities caused by cell phone use and texting soared 28% (from 4,572 in 2005 to 5,870 in 2008) and further showed that texting has caused more than 16,000 deaths in US car crashes from 2001 to 2007.

According to a UK Transport Research Laboratory study commissioned by the Royal Automobile Club Foundation, motorists sending text messages while driving are "significantly more impaired" than ones who drive drunk. The study showed texters' reaction times deteriorated by 35%, with a whopping 91% decrease in steering ability, while similar studies of drunk driving indicate reaction times diminishment of a relatively modest 12%.

Txt U L8r

Txt U L8rCar and Driver this week announced the launch of Txt U L8r, a free mobile application for handheld devices created to combat the dangers of texting while driving. Sponsored by Chrysler and developed by iSpeech, Txt U L8r automatically responds to text messages without obliging drivers to take their eyes off the road or their hands off the wheel.

When Txt U L8r is running on a driver's handheld device, the application sends a predetermined message back to the sender with an alert that the user is unavailable. At the same time, the received message is read aloud to the driver, ensuring he or she doesn't miss an urgent message. A paid upgrade of the app is available, allowing the driver to respond back to messages with voice commands.

Development of Txt U L8r was prompted by a Car and Driver Texting While Driving Study (see Texting While Driving: How Dangerous Is It?) that showed driver reaction times while texting were much worse compared to drunk driver reaction times. The study demonstrated the time it takes to hit the brakes when sober, when legally drunk, when reading an email and when sending a text.

Determinations of the Car and Driver Texting While Driving study include:

  • When unimpaired, it took drivers an average of .54 seconds to brake.
  • When legally drunk, it took an additional four feet to brake.
  • When reading an email, it required an additional 36 feet to bring the car to a stop.
  • When sending a text, another 70 feet was required to brake.

Based on the results of this study, Car and Driver representatives appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in January 2010 as part of Oprah's widely popular "No Phone Zone" pledge, to discuss their findings and to demonstrate just how dangerous texting while driving truly is.

"Our experiment showed just how dangerous texting while driving can be," says Car and Driver's editor-in-chief Eddie Alterman. "The results of our research were precisely the reason we developed Txt U L8r in an effort to help drivers avoid car accidents often associated with distracted driving. Our goal is to make Txt U L8r part of a daily driving routine while helping save lives behind the wheel."

The problem of texting while driving, coupled with the results of the Car and Driver study, were the primary reasons why Chrysler chose to officially sponsor the Txt U L8r application.

Chrysler Group LLC was the first automaker to establish a corporate policy prohibiting its employees from texting while driving company-owned vehicles and texting with company-provided communication devices while driving personal vehicles. Chrysler has implemented these strictures to promote safer driving behaviors and to serve as an industry example, and it will take it a step further by encouraging employees to download the Txt U L8r application to their company-owned communication devices.

The Chrysler Brand will also take action on its Facebook page to ask its community and owners to make the commitment of not texting while driving. With a click, fans can take the "I Drive Text-Free" pledge as well as share it with their friends and family on Facebook.

"Chrysler brand vehicles are designed with available safety and security features that help to deliver your precious cargo safely from one destination to the next," says Chrysler Group LLC Chrysler Brand President and CEO Olivier Francois. "Together, let's pledge to keep our eyes on the road and our hands on the wheel by promising not to text while driving."

To download Txt U L8r:

Or visit the Android Market or Blackberry Appworld to download the application to your handheld device.

No word on an Apple iOS version as yet.

Other anti-texting while driving applications include SafeCellApp, which works with iPhone, and Iconosys SMSReplier and DriveReplier.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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