WINTERSVILLE - A simple device that plugs into the dashboard can help parents - and employers, too, for that matter - make sure no one texts and drives.
The device, TextBuster, was developed by Access 2 Communication, a company located in the Jefferson County Industrial Park. It's based on an idea conceived by a doctor in Texas and "enhanced quite a bit" by Access 2 Communications, which shares the patent with him.
"We put a lot of thought into it," Access 2 Communications owner Brett Barta said. "We knew there'd be competition down the road, and we wanted to set ourselves apart from it."
TEXTBUSTER — Access 2 Communication’s Brett Barta’s latest product, TextBuster, is designed to keep teens — or anyone else, for that matter — from texting while driving. -- Linda Harris
TextBuster comes in two models: one plugs directly into the vehicle's fuse panel; the other, a wireless connection, attaches directly to the car's diagnostic connector.
Once the unit is installed, the parent or employer - Barta calls them account managers - need only install the TextBuster software on a particular driver's cell phone.
Whenever that driver gets behind the wheel, TextBuster disables his or her text, e-mail and Internet functions, though they'll still be able to use their GPS, and make and receive phone calls.
Barta said TextBuster gives parents and employers the option of tracking that driver's driving habits - how fast they're driving, where they're driving and what time of day they're driving. The account manager can set parameters specifying that they want to be notified by text or e-mail if their child drives, say, 20 miles over the speed limit, or 20 miles beyond their supposed destination, or even if they're driving after a predetermined cutoff time.
"The nice part is, it's a two-part system," he said. "The device is installed in the vehicle, the application goes into the phone. When you download the application, you have the tracking option. So you can use the text blocking only, or you can text block and manage their use. It really is a complete package."
The system is password protected, and if anyone attempts to tamper with either the dashboard unit or the software, TextBuster immediately notifies the account manager.
TextBuster is currently available only for android phones, though Barta said they'll be launching versions for Windows and Blackberry in the near future. An iPhone compatible version is in development.
Barta said it took 29 people around the world about a year to develop the product, but it's manufactured entirely in Jefferson County.
"Even the parts are manufactured here," he said. "We didn't want to go outside the U.S. for parts or anything else. It's American made.
"We just finished packaging our first 10,000 (units)," he said. "We'll be ready in a week or two to start production on our next 15,000."
He said they'll be shipping to big box stores and auto parts retailers, and they're also working a deal to prewire the units into new cars worldwide. The units also can be purchased via the company's website, www.textbuster.com.
Barta said he's been a bit overwhelmed by the reaction to TextBuster.
"Every time I watched TV and saw a story on the news about texting and driving, I crawled out of my skin because I had an item in development that could prevent tragic accidents," he said, adding that after announcing it was in development, "I wasn't prepared for the people who came up to me who've been affected by a tragedy involving texting and driving. That's when it hit me."
The TextBuster is priced at $179, he said.