New AT&T app blocks SMS junkies from texting while driving

Company hopes its AT&T DriveMode will eliminate drivers' temptations to reply to incoming texts while on the road

AT&T is now providing a detox service for SMS junkies who just can't help responding to text messages while driving.

The carrier has released a free mobile app called AT&T DriveMode that it hopes will eliminate drivers' temptations to reply to incoming texts while on the road. The app has a simple-but-effective concept where it automatically sends a text message to anyone trying to contact you informing them that you're currently driving and that you'll get back to them as soon as safely possible. The app will be initially available for BlackBerry users with "additional operating systems and devices" gaining compatibility soon, AT&T says.

RELATED: U.S. bans texting while driving trucks and buses

Both lawmakers and law enforcement officials have grappled with how to stop drivers from using cellphones to send text messages while driving. A 2009 study conducted by Car & Driver magazine found that driving while texting led drivers to have even slower reaction times than driving while legally drunk. And federal data released in 2010 showed that an estimated 16,000 people died between 2001 and 2007 due to drivers who were sending text messages while on the road.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced last year that it had barred truck and bus drivers from texting while driving, and several states have enacted laws that have barred all drivers from texting while driving. AT&T has long been an advocate of discouraging users not to text while driving and it launched its own anti-texting campaign in 2009.

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