Esurance Offers Free Distraction-Curbing App to Customers

Esurance said this week that its policyholders who worry about their young drivers being distracted behind the wheel can now take advantage of the insurer’s partnership with anti-texting technology company Cellcontrol for free.

The direct-to-consumer auto insurer, which was bought out by Allstate in 2011 and focuses its operations on personal auto coverage, offers Cellcontrol services via a telematics device that hooks into the vehicle’s diagnostic port that pairs with a downloadable smartphone application.

What the Problem Is

According to Esurance, targeting teens for the free Cellcontrol offer is meant to combat the longstanding problem the age group has had with motor vehicle crashes. And the nation’s youngest drivers have been especially vulnerable as issues over distracted driving mount.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drivers between 18 and 20 years old have the highest rates of phone use during self-reported crashes or near-crash experiences, outpacing all other age groups.

In addition, young drivers tend to text more when driving, are less likely to pull over to send text messages and are less likely to tell a driver to stop texting while they are a passenger, according to the NHTSA.

Earlier this year, a co-author of a distracted-driving article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association said that texting bans have done little to combat the overall problem and that cell-phone shut-off technology may be necessary to meaningfully decrease occurrences of texting while driving.

What It Does

Cellcontrol can be set to limit smartphone activity whenever the car is in motion, blocking smartphone use for texts, emails, Internet and applications.

A parent can unblock certain phone numbers, such as their own, so that Cellcontrol lets those calls go through when the application is active. Calls through hands-free devices and headsets can also be unblocked.

A young driver trying to stop the device in any way—by disabling it on a smartphone or removing it from the car—will tip his or her parent with an email notification.

How It Works

According to Cellcontrol, a telematics device plugged into a diagnostic port in a vehicle and a smartphone-installed application helps “accurately determine the vehicle state” so that a smartphone is limited in use while the car is moving.

Authorizing certain uses for a Cellcontrol-equipped smartphone can be managed through a “customizable policy” on the Internet.

The application can be installed on smartphones with Android, Blackberry and Windows operating systems.

Though an iPhone version is currently unavailable, it “will be available soon,” according to an Esurance statement.

Esurance is offering Cellcontrol service in the following 21 states:
–Alabama
–Arizona
–Arkansas
–California
–Florida
–Illinois
–Indiana
–Iowa
–Kentucky
–Louisiana
–Maryland
–Michigan
–Minnesota
–Missouri
–Nevada
–New Jersey
–New York
–Ohio
–Oklahoma
–Utah
–Washington

Esurance spokesman Danny Miller told Online Auto Insurance News that the insurer is seeking regulatory approval in the following 15 states:
–Colorado
–Connecticut
–Georgia
–Kansas
–Mississippi
–Nebraska
–North Carolina
–Oregon
–Pennsylvania
–Rhode Island
–South Carolina
–Tennessee
–Texas
–Virginia
–Wisconsin

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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