Finland: App warns drivers to stop texting on road

By News from Elsewhere... reports from around the world, found by BBC Monitoring

image copyrightHelsingin Sanomat

As texting at the wheel becomes an increasing concern, scientists in Finland say they've come up with a way of getting drivers to concentrate on the road.

VisGuard, a smartphone app developed at the University of Jyvaskyla, aims to get drivers to put their phones down while driving by flashing a warning triangle onto their phone screens if they spend too long looking at the device, the Helsinki Times reports. The app also uses location and speed data, and images from the phone's camera, to know if a potential hazard has appeared on the road.

"The app can give advance warning of a zebra crossing, crossroads or a tight bend," Researcher Tuomo Kujala tells Helsingin Sanomat newspaper. "In tests, drivers paid 15% more attention to the road when using it," he says, although he admits there is a "small risk" the app might actually encourage people to use their phones to identify dangers.

But Kujala says a ban on using smartphones in cars simply isn't working - the Finnish Road Safety Council reports more than half of Finns use their phones while driving, and up to a third admit to texting at the wheel. VisGuard only works on Android phones at present, but the team hope to develop a free version for all systems later this year.

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