A Kiwi innovation to help people resist using their cellphone when driving has been recognised with a global telecommunications award in London.
The AA and NZTA endorsed DriveSafe service from Vodafone won the Consumer Service Innovation Award at the Global Telecoms Business Awards yesterday (NZ time).
The free service was launched in New Zealand in February and allows Vodafone users to text 'DRIVE ON' to 760 when they are getting in a car. From that point on anyone texting the driver will automatically get a reply saying "I'm driving right now. I'll read your TXT as soon as it is safe to do so."
Once the user has finished driving they simply text 'DRIVE OFF' to 760 to turn the service off.
"Drivers putting themselves and others at risk by texting on their phones is a growing problem around the world, especially among younger people," says AA Motoring Affairs General Manager Mike Noon.
"DriveSafe is a great Kiwi initiative to help people avoid that temptation to text and drive and it is fantastic to see it winning a global award.
"The world is such an instantaneous place now that people feel the pressure to look and reply to texts immediately. If someone is driving and doesn't reply to a text quickly enough they may start getting more and more messages asking why they haven't responded, which only increases the pressure for them to look at their phone.
"By using DriveSafe the driver knows the person who has texted them has gotten a reply and the people who have used it find this genuinely helps them to leave their phone alone.
"As an added bonus it spreads the message that texting and driving don't mix.
"This is the global Decade of Action for Road Safety and countries all around the world are grappling with the problem of drivers being distracted by texting. It is great to see New Zealand leading the way in this area and hopefully DriveSafe can go on to spread internationally."
DriveSafe has been used by more than 2500 people in its first few months and the AA and NZTA hopes the award will lead on to more drivers making use of the service.
"Improving road safety is everyone's responsibility and the NZTA congratulates Vodafone for taking the lead and helping keep us all safe on the roads. We encourage everyone who can to get into the habit of using this service regularly and we'd now like to see other telecommunications companies do their bit for road safety," says NZTA Chief Adviser, Safety Directions Lisa Rossiter.
Texting while driving topped the AA's list of top 10 driver distractions in January and a recent University of Otago study found 54% of drivers on a restricted licence admitted to texting while driving occasionally or more often.