The urge to respond to text messages promptly can compel even the safest driver to text while driving.
Now, there's an app for that.
Jarrod Smith, a student at Carrollwood Day School, created the NoTexting application partially to solve his own teenage dilemma.
The 16-year-old sophomore is a new driver who is well aware of the perils of texting and driving.
However, his parents often communicate with him through text. Take too long to respond, and that could mean trouble, too.
Smith created an application for his Android phone that replies to texts immediately without requiring him to take his eyes off the road or hands off the wheel.
Once activated, the app automatically replies to every text message received and reads incoming messages out loud. That way, Smith can decide whether the message is important enough for him to pull over and type out a personalized response.
The NoTexting application was the 10th-grader's idea in fulfilling a requirement to move into his school's rigorous International Baccalaureate diploma program.
Smith, who likes to dabble in website design, said he used a Google program to invent the application through trial and error. He spent a couple of hours on the project each weekend for about a month.
Barbara Hawkins, the Carrollwood Day School teacher who has served as Smith's adviser for the project, said he persevered through a tedious project while she served as his unofficial cheerleader.
"When he got stuck and discouraged," she said, "I'd give him a 'rah, rah.' "
Now, he uses the program regularly. If he receives a text, the sender automatically receives a message like this in return:
"I'm driving right now. I'll contact you in a minute."
The auto-reply can be personalized to fit other needs.
"I'm in the movies right now." "I'm at work. Call me on the office line." Or, "I'm asleep. Why aren't you?"
The app can be downloaded for free from Smith's personal website. He said he will eventually go through the process, which includes paying a fee, to have it available on the official Android Market website.
Smith launched the app two weeks ago, promoting it mainly on message boards frequented by Android owners.
So far, his website has received about 80 hits, but he is not sure how many people have downloaded the program.
There are other smart phone apps aimed at thwarting texting and driving. Some disable texting if a phone's GPS detects it is traveling above a certain speed. Others use Bluetooth technology to tap into a car's computer and disable texting in moving vehicles.
There are also other auto-reply programs that work a lot like Smith's, although his is a rare free download.
Tia Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3405.