Lebanon News

Text or drive – App makes you choose

Text or drive.

BEIRUT: Apps can be entertaining, informative, incredibly useful or a winning combination of all three, but until now, they couldn’t really claim to be able save lives.

“Text or Drive,” designed by two Lebanese students, has the power to do just that. The application, which is available on Google Play for Android smartphones and will soon be released for Apple and Windows systems, bars text-messaging programs from working when the owner is traveling faster than a customizable speed.

“It’s based on GPS,” explained one of the creators, 19-year-old Christel Abi Akl. “So when you go above the speed you have set – we recommend 20 km/hr – the phone’s 3G signal will cut off so you can’t make calls, get texts or check Facebook.”

It can be switched off when the owner is in a car but not driving.

Abi Akl said she got the idea after she had a minor accident due to texting while driving. Road accidents are a major problem in Lebanon, with around 5,000 instances leading to the deaths of 180 people in the first five months of 2013 alone, according to data from the Red Cross and the Internal Security Forces.

The app comes in the wake of a number of governmental and corporate awareness campaigns on the subject, with such stars such as Haifa Wehbe promoting the “Don’t Text and Drive” message.

Abi Akl, a student at the American University of Beirut, and fellow creator 20-year-old Charbel J. Maroun, from the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, created the app for a Corporate Social Responsibility competition run by UAE-based Al-Ahli, AUB and the Ecole Supérieure des Affaires.

“Text or Drive” got second place out of four projects that made it to the finals.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 20, 2014, on page 4.




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