Ignition Interlock for Phones Curbs Distracted Driving


  • Origo Anti-Texting Device Picture

    Origo Anti-Texting Device Picture

    A new ignition-interlock system for phones is designed to put the brakes on distracted driving. | April 19, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • A new ignition-interlock system that prevents a car from starting until the cell phone is secured in its docking station has hit the market.
  • The system is patterned after ignition-interlock systems that prevent intoxicated drivers from starting a car.
  • The product, OrigoSafe, costs $279, plus $125 for professional installation.

ROANOKE, Virginia — A new ignition-interlock system that prevents a car from starting until the phone is secured in its docking station has hit the market. This prevents motorists from holding their phones to talk or text while behind the wheel.

The system is patterned after ignition-interlock systems that prevent intoxicated drivers from starting a car.

The product, called OrigoSafe, costs $279 and comes in a kit that includes the docking station, DriveCase adapter for the phone and installation instructions. Buyers can opt for installation by an authorized dealer for $125, including warranty, or install the docking station themselves with no warranty.

Currently, OrigoSafe is only compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S3, and iPhone 4, 4S and 5. Adapters for other phones may be introduced in the future, and a complete list will soon be available on the company's Web site.

Once the docking station is in place, the vehicle won't start unless a phone is docked. To allow for use by valets and repair shops, the owner can enter a four-digit code, which will let the car run for a limited time. The factory default is three minutes, but the setting is configurable, within limits. The unit comes with several small cards on which the owner can write the code, so valets and service people can restart the vehicle.

Lengthier drives without a phone in the cradle, say for emergency operation or test-drives at repair shops, require you to enter a special six-digit code. That is available only by contacting an Origo administrator.

The system can't be defeated by removing the phone after starting the car. If a driver tries that ploy, an alarm sounds and lights flash, an annoyance that continues until the phone is replaced in the docking station. Do this enough times and the interlock will be disabled, preventing the car from starting again without a call to the administrator.

The docking station charges the phone and also allows operation of Bluetooth functions, so drivers are able to make calls and listen to music, even though they can't text or surf the Internet. This may be one issue with the system. As previously reported by Edmunds, studies have shown that hands-free phone conversations can be just as distracting as talking with a handheld.

According to Origo, the most interest in the product has been expressed by parents hoping to provide extra safety for the teen drivers in their families. This isn't surprising, since teens statistically are most likely both to text while driving and be involved in accidents while doing so.

But fleet operators are also seen as a major market for the technology. The Origo Web site says that in commercial applications the system can increase safety and improve driver performance, while potentially reducing insurance rates and providing "verifiable compliance with state and federal laws that allow hands-free use."

Other products on the market take slightly different approaches to texting while driving. Some, like CellControl and TxtBlocker simply block all cell phone signals inside the vehicle. And others, like Textecution and izup are apps that prevent users from sending texts once the phone is in motion.

Edmunds says: Although OrigoSafe may not be a perfect system, it provides one more tool for the prevention of texting while driving.

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