WATCH ABOVE: A Bedford company is designing a device that is meant to stop people from using their phones while driving. Keeping Roads Safe wants its product to help break a dangerous habit. Julia Wong reports.
HALIFAX – A Bedford company is creating a product aimed at preventing distracted driving, and the developers hope the device will help stop a dangerous habit.
Staff at Keeping Roads Safe are designing a device that will delay notifications of emails, text messages and phone calls to a driver’s cell phone until the car is turned off.
Josh Poulain, chief technology officer, said the device works using a process known as selective listening.
“It listens for any activity of only the driver’s cell phone. It’s connected to the power supply of the vehicle so that when the car is turned on and it’s generating power, our device is turned on and will start working,” he said.
CEO Angus Poulain said development on the product started more than four years ago, and the company is aiming to release it this fall. He said the motivation for the product is personal.
“I have several teenagers that are now driving,” he said.
“I don’t want my kids texting and driving. My kids are great kids but sometimes they don’t realize what they’re doing. They just pick [the phone] up and pay the price later.”
The CEO said the device is a better alternative to turning the phone to silent or putting it on Do Not Disturb because it does not require the driver to do anything. He hopes that goes a long way in helping break the habit of reaching for the phone while behind the wheel.
The device, a small black box, fits behind the dash of a vehicle and is virtually unseen.
“It doesn’t rely on any interaction from the driver. Once they get into the vehicle, they don’t have to do anything,” Angus said.
“They’re not going to get calls. The only thing on their cell phone is the time. But it’s not ever going to ring. After a certain period of time, they will be into the habit of just not paying attention to the cell phone as they drive.”
Chief engineer Sriraghu Padyathravindran said the device senses which number to block based on the cell phone closest to it, meaning passengers will still be allowed to use their phones.
Drivers will also be allowed to call emergency numbers, such as 911 and other pre-programmed emergency numbers.
Cst. Will Diaczenko with HRP Traffic Services said cell phone usage while driving is on the increase in the Halifax area.
“It’s gone more now to texting,” he said. “People aren’t so much driving around with phones up to their ear anymore. But there’s still a lot of using the phone as in text messaging or emailing, things that [more so] take your eyes to someone’s lap or down.”
Last year, police handed out 1,949 tickets to drivers who used their cell phones while driving. So far this year, 1,060 tickets have been handed out.
Diaczenko said any use of a cell phone while on the road is dangerous.
“It’s a very concerning thing. When you take your eyes off the road, your concentration away from what you’re doing in a vehicle, it’s very serious,” he said.
“You’re driving a vehicle that weighs in excess of 2,000 pounds. You take your eyes off the road for a matter of milliseconds, you can strike somebody, strike another vehicle or a pedestrian.”
He suggests putting your cell phone in a glove box, turning the ringer off or putting the phone out of sight as other ways to prevent distracted driving.