AT&T enhances DriveMode, calls for preloaded texting safety apps

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AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) said it will expand its free DriveMode safety application as part of the operator's ongoing effort to curb texting behind the wheel.

DriveMode, available for smartphones running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry, automatically replies to incoming texts, notifying the sender that the message recipient is driving and unable to respond. On Sept. 30, AT&T will update DriveSafe to automatically turn on when the user is in a vehicle moving at speeds in excess of 25 miles per hour--DriveSafe also will automatically shut off once the vehicle falls to speeds behind 25 miles per hour for five minutes.

AT&T DriveMode additionally features an Allow List giving users the flexibility to communicate with up to five contact numbers--e.g., family members or roadside assistance services--while the app is running. All 911 calls are automatically approved as well. Subscribers also can run one music and one navigation app while DriveMode is enabled. More than 80,000 AT&T customers have now downloaded the app.

AT&T is calling on all mobile device manufacturers and software developers to equip every new smartphone with preloaded apps to halt texting while driving. The operator also pledged to fund third-party research on behavioral factors linked to distracted driving and potential technological solutions that tackle those conditions.

AT&T reports that the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Communications Commission and more than 140 other organizations have thrown their support behind the operator's No Text on Board Pledge Day event, which it is celebrating today. In honor of the event, AT&T is expanding its ItCanWait.com website to include an online simulator depicting the dangers of distracted driving.

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