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AT&T app seeks to curb texting while driving

John Egan

AT&T is trying to fight texting while driving with … texting.

The telecom company’s new DriveMode app for BlackBerry devices will automatically send a customizable reply to incoming texts, notifying the sender that the driver is behind the wheel and unable to respond. The automatic message is similar to an “out of office” email.

The app can be downloaded for free from the AT&T AppCenter and BlackBerry App World stores. AT&T plans to make the app available on other mobile platforms.

AT&T’s DriveMode app is available to users of BlackBerry devices.

Once they’ve downloaded the app, AT&T customers can activate the text auto-reply feature before driving. The app also allows disabling of emails, incoming calls, outgoing calls and web browsing. When the app is turned off, a user can handle calls, messages and emails as they normally would.

Charlene Lake, chief sustainability officer and senior vice president public affairs at AT&T, says in a news release: “We’re hoping to reach new and experienced drivers alike to generate a change in behavior and underscore our message that when it comes to texting and driving, it can – and should – wait.”

The app lets users choose up to five contact phone numbers – such as those for roadside assistance and family members – for sending and receiving calls while the app is running. 911 is automatically included.

In 2009, one-fifth of injury crashes in the United States involved distracted driving, such as texting while driving, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. A 2009 survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that more than one in every five drivers acknowledged reading or sending text messages or emails while driving; among 16- to 19-year-olds, it was one of every two drivers.

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