App addresses teen texting, driving

Barrington Verizon store offers to install it free on Android phones

BARRINGTON – When Mike Drelicharz decided to buy a Wireless Zone store, he discovered Barrington was an area underserved by cell phone stores.

But besides offering a shop full of Verizon services, Drelicharz also is trying to serve the community from a safety standpoint through an application called Textecution.

Textecution was developed by Jonathan Young Enterprises LLC and Elyk Innovation Inc. for Wireless Zone, a chain of independent Verizon franchises.

The app currently works on Android phones. When a parent downloads and installs the program on a child’s phone, it stops them from texting when moving over 10 miles per hour – making texting while driving nearly impossible.

When a child attempts to text while moving – or remove the app from the phone – a message is sent to the administrator, usually a parent. It costs $29.99 to download and works on any Android phone with any carrier.

At Drelicharz’s store, anyone who asks for the app can have it installed on their phone for free, eliminating the $30 fee and giving parents some reassurance when their children are behind the wheel.

Drelicharz promoted the app during the March 9 Barrington Community Expo but said he hasn’t had anyone ask for the app.

“I didn’t think it would get the door swinging,” said Drelicharz, but added he thinks the app addresses an important safety issue.

“Every year you hear of these tragedies that could have been avoided,” he said.

In a 2009 study, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that people who texted while driving had a crash risk 23 times higher than when they were not texting. It estimated that to send or receive a text, drivers look down an average of 5 seconds. Depending on how fast the car is moving, it could have traveled the length of a football field in that time.

Stopping teens from texting and driving is Mike Gasso’s passion. As a driving instructor at Barrington High School, he works to get parents and students to make a pledge to stop using their phones in the car.

“I like the basic premise of the program,” Gasso said of the app. “The one thing is I think it creates a little false sense of security because you can text when going 10 miles per hour.”

He said he would rather see an app that stops texting from happening at any speed.

Another reason the app may not have caught on yet is that it can only be used on Android phones. Drelicharz said if a family comes in with Apple iPhones asking for Textecution, at least they can have a conversation about it “and raise the awareness with the parents, school administrators, and with the kids themselves about how dangerous it is, just a gentle reminder that they shouldn’t be texting. If we save one life it’s all worth it.”

Veronica Thompson is one of the coordinators for Safety Town, an annual event put on by the Barrington Junior Women’s League to promote safety with young children. She said the app is important even for little kids.

“The little kids, no matter how young, are fully aware of how the parents are driving,” she said. “It’s not just helpful for the children. I would say it should be good for parents. You’re the role model for your kids. If they see you texting and driving and using your phone while you’re driving, you’re setting an example.”

One thing Thompson, Gasso and Drelicharz stress is the app needs to be promoted more.

“I haven’t marketed it very much,” Drelicharz said. “We’re a brand new store and this is a Wireless Zone specific application.”

The community is willing to help with the marketing of it: Thompson, Gasso and David Dorn, the assistant chief of police in Barrington, expressed an interest in working on programs to promote the app, offering to include it at already scheduled events.

Drelicharz hopes by the end of the summer, after students receive graduation and back-to-school gifts, he can have at least 100 people come in to get the download.

The grand opening of Barrington’s new Wireless Zone store is set for April 6 and 7.

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