Almost as soon as we were ushered into the age of modern driving with the invention of the automobile we entered the age of distracted driving with the inventions of shiny things to keep us distracted: let it be the car radio or more recently the cell phone. Recent research by the National Safety Council on distracted driving has shown that cell phone usage when driving can cause a driver to miss up to 50% of the information collected in their driving environment, and that hands-free cell phones do not provide any safety benefit when driving. For more, read the NSC's white paper (pdf link).

All of this research as well as public recognition of the problem (did you notice the question by a reporter during the Q&A section of last Thursday's iPhone OS Media Event?) has led a number of developers to create technological solutions to the problem. One of the solutions is "izup" by Illume Software, currently available for Blackberry, Android and Windows Mobile, with versions under development for quick messaging devices and the iPhone. In an interview with MacRumors, Mark Thirman, Vice President of Business Development for Illume Software, explained the appeal of such applications.

Put yourself in the mindset of a parent or an employer. You really want to reduce the risk for our children or your employees while they're driving.

izup works by detecting when its host device is traveling at a speed greater than 5 mph, then sending incoming calls to voicemail and making only select "white-listed" phone numbers available for out-bound calling. When an emergency number is dialed, a notification can be sent to the account holder (i.e., parent, employer) with the device's location. All SMS texts are also blocked as well as other apps, although there is an app whitelist meant for navigation apps.

With the announcement of iPhone OS 4, Thirman says that an iPhone version of the application is now possible, and that it wouldn't be "just a port". The company is even evaluating whether using iAds would be beneficial to subsidize the cost (currently $4.95 per month for other platforms with volume discounts available).

The iPhone version of izup is scheduled to be released alongside iPhone OS 4 this summer.

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