By Anne Collier
My son Sam has an idea for an app to help stop texting while driving: “When you’re driving and a friend texts you, the app sends back an automatic text saying ‘Sorry, I’m driving, I can’t answer your text. Back 2 u soon.'” Or, for phone calls, the app lets you record yourself in a message for callers that says something like that. Sam suggested that when he saw I was writing about a new survey finding that 44% of 16-to-24-year-old drivers say friends are the biggest influence on them for curbing their texting while driving. It found that parents were the next greatest influence at 33%. The survey, by the Ad Council, was released today for “Stop the Texts Day,” from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the US’s state attorneys general, and the Ad Council. It also found that 60% of those drivers said they’d texted while driving. Of that 60%, the majority said they’d continue to do so even knowing that TWD causes accidents. But on the solution side, 88% said a law against TWD would encourage them to stop or text less while driving, and 96% “said large fines, a suspended license and/or jail time, higher insurance rates and other financial and legal consequences would encourage them” to stop. Fining was a suggestion made by a commercial driver on the “Stop the Texts” Facebook page. He said that, when commercial drivers “get caught using a hand held device,” they get fined $2,700 and their company gets fined $11,000.
As for software help: There is a new game app for upping drivers’ awareness of their phone use behind the wheel. Maybe its creators will add Sam’s feature (I couldn’t find an app in Apple’s store which does what he proposed). Logically called “App4Drivers,” it’s available now for the iPhone and soon for Android phones, says the 1:12 video on YouTube about it. Players lose points for answering calls and texts. But it’s not just about phone use in the car: “Reasonable acceleration, smooth turns, and easy braking get better scores.” The app “keeps a tally of any phone use while it’s on,” so teens can actually show their parents how responsible their driving is. I like the game aspect.
AT&T has an app that does provide exactly what Sam had in mind – an “away text.” It’s called DriveMode, an idea from AT&T consumer advocate Shavonne Jones, who lost a friend of 32 years in a car accident caused by another driver who was texting while driving on a highway (watch Ms. Jones tell her story at about 3 min. into this video). For now, DriveMode is only for Android and BlackBerry (get going, Apple!). AT&T spokesperson Andrea Brands told me it has already been downloaded 51,000 times. For parents who are at home and want to know where their child is while driving but don’t want them to text their location, there’s Glympse‘s tracking with a time limit (the tagline’s cute: “Share your where”); I like that its use is preceded by parent-child communication).For more TWD controls apps see this from our friends at iKeepSafe.org.
Meanwhile, check out this reverse-psychology approach from a Belgian driving instructor – funny but maybe effective too. Tell me what you think.
This post begins to answer the question I posed in my last one on TWD data, but I’d love to hear your answers too – in comments below!