We’re okay with phone blockers in cars, as long as we can still talk

  Last updated May 30, 2019 at 4:45 pm


Drivers would be willing to use blocker apps, but only if they can still do hands-free calls and listen to Bluetooth music.

blocker apps_smartphone usage_driving and texting

Almost 70 per cent of drivers would install an app designed to block texting and browsing, as long as they could still use Bluetooth functions.

In an attempt to combat distracted driving, researchers from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) surveyed 712 drivers for a national study into voluntary apps that restrict certain phone uses.

Lead researcher Oscar Oviedo-Trespalacios says 68 per cent of participants were willing to use an blocker apps that disables text messaging, web browsing and email features, so long as it still allowed hands free calls.

But only 37 per cent were prepared to embrace the idea if calls were blocked completely.

Participants also stressed the importance of being able to listen to music through their phone while using the app.

Most drivers stick to hands free

“Existing studies have shown that mobile phone use behind the wheel is a significant contributor to road trauma. Police crash reports in the USA have estimated that phone distraction contributes to 18 per cent of fatal crashes,” Oviedo-Trespalacios says.

When it came to how they already used their phones in the car, the survey found most drivers stuck to hands-free conversations.

But 17 per cent confessed to doing ‘visual-manual tasks’ that involved touching their phone, such as texting, browsing and emailing.

15 per cent reported occasionally looking at their phone for more than two seconds, while 19 per cent said they occasionally monitored and read conversations without writing back.

Mobile phone use is so ingrained in our society that completely stopping people from using their phones while driving is an extremely difficult task,” says Oviedo-Trespalacios.

“Using voluntary apps that restrict some phone functions is emerging as a practical new countermeasure to limit distracted driving.

Drivers don’t know about phone blocker apps

40 per cent of drivers surveyed had heard about voluntary apps to prevent mobile phone distracted driving.

Only 10 per cent said they had already tried the technology.

The most common app already in use was iPhone’s Do Not Disturb While Driving, with a few people also using Android Auto, Waze, Truemotion Family, RoadMode or a vehicle interface that restricted phone functions.

“Overall, our study found that familiarity and actual use of these types of apps was low, which means a lot more work is needed increase public knowledge and acceptance of these technologies,” Oviedo-Trespalacios says.

“The good news is that once drivers learned about these apps, there was a willingness to use them.

“But for the apps to gain acceptance, it’s important that they retain hands-free calling and music functions, while still limiting the most dangerous actions – actually touching the phone to text, email and scroll.

“I would also advocate an opt-out system, rather than opt-in, for pre-installed driver safety apps on phones as this would encourage greater use.”

The study is published in the journal Transportation Research Part F.


Technoference is ruining our sleep and productivity

Smartphone addiction literally changes teenagers’ brains

Smartphones just a pain in the neck

About the Author

QUT Newsroom
The latest and best news from the Queensland University of Technology.

Published By

Featured Videos

Saving Seagrass
Bendable crystals tie current thinking in knots