This week, in the midst of the latest Apple announcement frenzy, one of New York’s top government prosecutors put out a special request to app developers: Please make something that stops people from texting while driving.
On Monday, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice sent a letter to Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Blackberry, asking the companies to install texting-while-driving “kill switches” in their operating systems. “Research suggests that driving while texting can be as dangerous as driving while drunk, and even more pervasive, especially among young people,” she said in a press release.
The apps, Rice added, might function like ignition interlock systems, a technological solution that requires drivers take a breathalyzer test before starting the engine.
She went on to outline a plan to rein in texting while driving, which, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving while intoxicated. Earlier this year, a new series of reforms passed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to crack down on dangerous driving, texters included.
As it happens, Apple’s already filed a patent for something like the software Rice described. In April, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published an idea Apple filed for in 2008: a “lock-out mechanism” to prevent texting while driving. There’s no way to tell if Apple will actually follow through on the patent’s development (companies file patents, some sillier than others, all the time), but it’s probably a good idea.