From the Swamp, a Text-and-Drive Solution

Louisiana-based Cellcontrol is marketing a digital lockdown on driver texting.

by / February 18, 2014

With the consequences so steep, why do some drivers still text while driving?

After all, the tickets for texting-and-driving can cost up to $10,000 (Alaska). According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, drivers who text are 23 times more likely to crash. And a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that nine people die each day because of distracted driving, including reading and sending texts. 

Yet, despite the significant risks, Liberty Mutual Insurance reported that texting accidents increased by 4 percent in 2012.

With so many people apparently unable to postpone their LOLing to avoid being DOA, governmental agencies, private companies and insurance firms are looking to find other ways to prevent texting.

The answer to text-caused crashes might come from the Silicon Swamp of Louisiana. 

“We call it the Silicon Bayou,” laughed Rob Guba, CEO of Baton Rouge-based Cellcontrol. The company makes an app and hardware set that disables the driver’s mobile device while a vehicle is in use. 

“It works well,” Guba said. “We’re very reliable … there are police departments out here using and promoting it across their communities. They see the accidents, even in their own [ranks]. We heard of one law enforcement organization who has seen multiple accidents from one officer driving-and-texting.”

While there are several similar products available offering similar claims, Cellcontrol is unique because it is (so far) the only app to be approved by Apple’s iTunes store. The company has also partnered with Esurance to offer the service to individual drivers in exchange for a discount on premiums. 

“I got the idea [for Cellcontrol] from my son,” said Guba. “I would watch him run into a wall while he was walking around the house and texting. And I thought, ‘Jesus, if he could do this just walking around the house, what’s he going to do when he’s behind the wheel of the car?’”

Guba said his partners at Cellcontrol came from the IT security sector. That might help explain why, according to reviews of the technology, the app locks a phone down like it tried to escape from prison. 

“I start the engine and try ...” wrote Marshall Rosenthal in 2012. “No go. Nada. Exiting the car later, I find the phone is back to snuff.” 

Guba said Cellcontrol works through both the hardware and applications. First, the driver downloads the app to his or her mobile device. Then, the hardware is installed in the vehicle. The hardware divides the car into various zones, and when the cell crosses into the driver’s zone, it becomes locked. 

“The driver can still use bluetooth,” added Guba. “And it’s highly customizable, giving you the options you want … so if you want the phone to work, it could.”

The appeal of Cellcontrol is clear for government organizations and companies that require employees to drive as part of their jobs. But as the Insurance Journal recently asked, is the device promoting safety or Big Brother?

Guba said safety.

“I’m not into telling people what to do,” he said. “This is a tool to individuals, giving you the choice whether you and your kids are going to be safe.”

John Sepulvado

John Sepulvado is from Southern California. He enjoys writing, reading and wants to take up fishing. He wrote for Government Technology for a short time in 2014.