All but nine states ban texting while driving. And that may be a new concept for some drivers, but it's far from foreign for a Florida Atlantic University professor who's spent years developing software to prevent it.
Dr. Daniel Raviv, an engineering and computer science professor and researcher at FAU, has designed software that disables a cellphone from sending and receiving text messages when it's in a vehicle moving at a preset speed, 10 miles per hour, for instance. What makes the invention unique, he says, is that the function is only disabled when the phone is in the driver's seat, not if it's carried by a passenger.
"The purpose is to not allow the driver to text," Raviv said. "That's the key issue of this invention. It blocks the driver and allows passengers to text. We can identify the driver."
Camille Coley, assistant vice president for research at FAU, said the institution is looking for businesses, such as phone carriers, which may be interested in licensing Raviv's invention.
The university filed a patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2010. It expects to get a response from the office within a few months.
While a patent "does not equal marketability," it does help move a licensing process faster, Coley said.
"Some companies will look at any idea, no matter the stage of development and protection," she said.
Companies such as AT&T and Sprint have cellphone applications for users to download to self-control their texting while driving. Both communications companies said they've hosted events for developers to find technology solutions to curb texting while driving.
Raviv said his invention may be more attractive to users if phone carriers or insurance companies offered them discounts or other perks for taking the precaution.
"People want freedom. They don't want to be told what to do," Raviv said. "The way to convince someone to do something is by offering incentives."
Ultimately, Raviv said, his objective is to help reduce the number of people who end up in emergency rooms because of texting while driving.
"I like to do things that can make a difference in the community," he said. "If we can save lives, hey, that's fantastic. That's my goal."