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Iowa seeks app to keep teen drivers from texting

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The state of Iowa intends to supply a smartphone app for 14- through 17-year-olds aimed at keeping them from texting while driving.

The state Transportation Department is choosing a high-tech firm to develop the app, which is expected to become available early next year, The Des Moines Register reported ( It will be called “TXTL8R,” which in text language is “Text Later.”

“What we would like it to do is to turn off the texting availability of the phone anytime it detects a speed over 15 mph,” said Iowa DOT spokeswoman Andrea Henry.

The department will pick up the cost of the voluntary app for the teen drivers, whom safety officials say text more than any other age group. Parents can then monitor their teen's driving behaviors through a portal on a desktop or laptop.

“It is not tied in any way to the issuance of their license,” Henry said.

Older drivers will be able to acquire the app but will be charged a yet-to-be determined fee by a third-party vendor.

Officials promoted the app during the Iowa State Fair, where it got a generally favorable response from the public.

“If you're trying to not text and drive and be a good model citizen or trying to break the habit of texting while driving, then maybe the app would help you,” said Claire Anderson, 20, of Conrad.

Several text-blocking apps already are commercially available for smartphones. They also use a phone's global positioning system capability to determine movement.

Distracted driving, including texting while driving, was a key factor in more than 650 Iowa traffic crashes in 2011, according to the Iowa Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau. Iowa law forbids all drivers from texting while driving.