If youve purchased a new car anytime in the past few years, youre driving what amounts to a powerful motorized computer that can reach highway speeds in seconds. Beyond the many mechanical and electrical functions your cars computer systems control or monitor, are many helpful features and enticing distractions on that glowing computer screen that sits front and center in your dashboard.
You can select among hundreds of radio and satellite stations, browse for your favorite music on your iPod, change the temperature in the car, heat or reposition the steering wheel and the seats, adjust your mirrors, program your GPS to navigate to your next stop, make phone calls, send text messages, check the weather and road conditions, search for restaurants and much more. All of those activities fall under the heading of distracted driving and are extremely dangerous.
Even if you dont drive a car equipped with Bluetooth and a fancy computer screen, your cell phone is loaded with distractions that can easily lead to a serious accident. Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents that killed nearly 3,500 drivers in 2015 and injured 391,000.
Anything that diverts your attention from safe driving – texting, talking on the phone, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system – is distracted driving. You simply cannot drive safely unless the task of driving has your full attention. Any activity that takes your eyes off the road for even a few seconds is extremely risky. At 55 miles per hour, a 5-second lapse in attention is like driving the full length of a football field with your eyes closed.
Many states now have laws that prohibit texting, talking on a cell phone or other distractions while driving, but of course, laws are not enough to prevent those activities. But just like apps contribute to distracted driving, other free apps exist to limit or block activities that lead to inattentive driving. Check out some of these options:
LifeSaver uses GPS technology to block the ability to use your phone while driving. It can also notify your loved ones once youve arrived safely at your destination. Features include a driver portal for parents to set up rewards for their teen children when they demonstrate safe driving. But its not just helpful for young drivers and their parents. Commercial fleet managers can use it to monitor their drivers on-the-road behavior.
Mojo runs in the background and tracks every mile you drive. You receive an overall Mojo score based on how many times you swipe, type and take calls on your cell phone. For every minute you drive without giving in to cell phone distractions, you earn one point. After 300 points (5 hours of undistracted driving) you earn a chance to win a $5 gift card. Ideal for teen drivers, users can compete with friends to determine whos the safest driver.
TrueMotion Family gives a trip score each time youre behind the wheel, pinpointing exact moments when you may have been driving distracted. You can compare driving scores with family members, see a family members exact location on the road in real time and track their trip history. This is a helpful app for parents of newer teenage drivers. Its also useful in encouraging every driver in the family to resist driving distractions, as the app can help drivers be accountable to each other.
If you have AT&T mobile service, AT&T’s DriveMode app blocks any phone talking or texting while driving. The app can be set to automatically start when your speed reaches 15 miles per hour. The app can notify you if your teen driver deactivates the app, or if certain settings are changed.
Do Not Disturb for iPhone
New with iOS 11 for the iPhone, the Do Not Disturb setting senses you might be driving and prevents notifications. If you tap Turn On While Driving, the app will automatically start when your iPhone connects to your car via Bluetooth, or when your phone senses driving motion. To operate it manually, you turn on the function from the phones control center. Or you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen and tap the car icon to turn the feature on or off.
How to Select a Safe Driving App
When choosing an app to help curb distracted driving, consider the following features:
- Is the app compatible with your phone?
- If you have an on-board computer screen, can the app sync via Bluetooth?
- Can it block text messaging and phone calls?
- Can it track the miles youve driven safely?
- If you have teen drivers, will it send notifications from your teens car?
- Does it offer rewards for distraction-free, safe driving?
- Is the app from a reputable company and is it updated regularly?
Take It to the Next Level
If you feel strongly about distracted driving, you can do more than practice safe driving behind the wheel. You can be an advocate in your community by doing the following:
- Support state and local safe driving laws.
- Speak out about safe driving at community meetings.
- Reach out to high schools to help teach and promote safe teen driving.
- Highlight the dangers of distracted driving on social media.