Justin Bieber is barely old enough to drive, but the pop star wants everyone to get the message to stop texting while driving.
To get people to keep their eyes on the road instead of their cellphones, the 17-year-old singer is encouraging people to download a free app that prevents drivers from texting when they're behind the wheel, which is illegal in many states.
"I get it. It's tempting to text and drive. But maybe it's time to take responsibility for our actions," Bieber said in a new commercial debuting Tuesday for PhoneGuard, the company that makes the Drive Safe app. "If someone texts you while you're driving, let them wait."
When a car travels faster than 10 mph, the app kicks in and locks the text-messaging function on Android and Blackberry phones, preventing the driver from typing on the keypad. It also intercepts incoming phone calls, so the driver isn't tempted to start chatting, a PhoneGuard spokeswoman told The Huffington Post.
The federal government doesn't compile statistics on the number of texting-related car deaths each year, a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told HuffPost. But researchers from the University of North Texas claimed last September that there had been 16,141 deaths tied to texting and driving between 2002 and 2007.
Bieber, who drives a Lamborghini and a Range Rover, was careful not to risk alienating his youthful fans by launching a blanket attack on texting.
"This campaign isn’t anti-texting," he said in a statement provided to HuffPost. "It’s about texting responsibly."
Earlier this year Bieber teamed up with other texting-behind-the-wheel crusaders. He filmed an episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" for the parents of Alex Brown, a 17-year-old Texas girl who died in a single-car accident while she drove and used her phone at the same time.
The Remember Alex Brown Foundation continues to work with Bieber on the cause.
But Bieber's latest life-saving message came under immediate criticism from observers who said the Grammy-nominated hit-maker has the first bomb of his young career on his hands.
First off, Bieber isn't just the public face of a safe-driving campaign. He owns 16 percent of Options Media Group Holdings, the company that owns PhoneGuard, reported penny stock blogger Timothy Sykes.
The company is a lemon, according to Sykes, because of declining sales and June filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that said it only has enough cash on hand to last 45 days.
Adding insult to financial injury, the Broward-Palm Beach New Times then reported that the Boca Raton, Fla., tech company's president was an ex-con who'd been busted for being part of an auto-theft ring.
On top of all that, the Drive Safe app isn't exactly an original idea and will have to compete in a crowded marketplace. The Wall Street Journal profiled several companies in 2009 that created apps serving a similar audience as the Bieber-endorsed program.
A PhoneGuard spokeswoman said the company sold 40,000 since Drive Safe launched in March, a number that could surge since the program is now available for free.
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