With the crackdown on distracted driving, and with texting behind the wheel being compared to driving drunk, Vlingo Corporation believes it's onto something.

The company has announced a new beta feature for Android phone users that allows consumers to receive and send text messages without taking their hands off the wheel or their eyes off the road.

The interface, called Vlingo InCar, offers users:

· Voice-driven, hands free initiation - Vlingo enters listening mode upon Bluetooth connectivity

· Voice driven, hands free initiation using a "wake up word"

· Conversational user guidance instead of a touch screen

· Ability to send and respond to messages, make calls and get directions using only voice commands

"Vlingo InCar was a natural extension of Vlingo's functionality so that users can now have an alternative, hands free way to communicate when they need to respond to an urgent message," said Dave Grannan, president and CEO at Vlingo. "Although 30 states presently have full or partial bans on texting while driving (TWD), data from Vlingo's Texting While Driving in America 2010 Report shows that 35 percent of those surveyed still continue to TWD. Legislative action is an important step but clearly laws are not enough, we are going to need technology solutions."

Vlingo released a video demonstrating how the product works. A driver says the "wake up word," a code that activates the device. The driver then can instruct the device to send a text message to an individual in the address book. If the person replies, the device then reads the message aloud.

The company says it has the support of Sprint in promoting the new technology as a way to change consumers' behavior.

"With Vlingo's hands-free application on the Android Market, drivers are able to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel, and Sprint is pleased to support Vlingo InCar as an application for its wireless customers," said Ralph Reid, Sprint vice president for corporate social responsibility.

Vlingo InCar beta is exclusively available on the Sprint Now Network and is optimized for the HTC Evo and other Android 2.2 devices.

While safety advocates are genuinely horrified by drivers texting behind the wheel, they also take a dim view of even talking on a hands-free device while driving. Illinois highway officials, for example, include conversations with passengers and eating as contributors to distracted driving.