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Car Key Device Jams Teens' Cell Phones

Inventor's ignition gadget prevents calls or texting while driving

MONDAY, Jan. 5 (HealthDay News) -- A car key that prevents teens from talking on cell phones or text messaging while driving has been developed by University of Utah researchers.

The Key2SafeDriving system includes a device that encloses a car key. The device connects wirelessly with the user's cell phone via either Bluetooth or RFID (radio-frequency identification) technologies. To turn on the engine, the user must slide the key out of the device or push a button to release it. The device then sends a signal to the driver's cell phone, placing it in "driving mode" and displaying a "stop" sign on the phone's display screen.

When in driving mode, the cell phone can't be used to talk or send text messages. It can call 911 or dial numbers pre-approved by parents, such as their cell phone numbers. Incoming calls and texts to the driver's cell phone are automatically answered with the message, "I am driving now. I will call you later when I arrive at the destination safely."

When the car engine is turned off, the driver slides the key back into the device, which sends a "car stopped" signal to the cell phone, which returns to its normal communication mode.

The device can't be fooled by turning the cell phone off and on again.

"The key to safe driving is to avoid distraction. We want to provide a simple, cost-effective solution to improve driving safety," co-inventor Xuesong Zhou, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, said in a university news release.

The device could be on the market within six months at an initial cost of less than $50, plus a monthly service fee.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about teens and driving.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Utah, news release, December 2008

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