Distracted Driving? There’s An App For That

We’re all guilty of it. Taking our eyes off the road to peek at our phones or to angrily jab at our GPS while we scream “I SAID SCOTT STREET NOT SCOTTSDALE” as a patronizingly calm voice directs us 300 miles in the wrong direction. The separation of car and phone seems nearly impossible, especially as more jobs list travel as a requirement and our work hours spill into our commuting time.

Distracted Driving on the Rise

Driving apps like WAZE, CoPilot and Google Maps offer impatient drivers live traffic alerts, shortcuts and even cop whereabouts. Bluetooth connectivity links cellphones to allow hands-free calling and robotic readings of the most recent texts and emails. And lest we not forget all the photo sharing, music streaming and status updating capabilities offered as well.

According to a 2016 New York Times article on driving apps usage, “after steady declines over the last four decades, highway fatalities last year recorded the largest annual percentage increase in 50 years.” And sadly, that number seems set to continue rising. We live in a world where everyone is looking down at a mini computer screen because they’re so afraid of missing something important. So how do we keep both eyes on the road ahead so that we don’t actually miss something important? Like that guard rail. Or that deer. Or even worse, that person?

The short answer is to put the phone away. Turn off the ringer, shove it in the glove box, turn up the radio and, dare I say it, enjoy the drive. “But this is 2017!” you say. “We don’t accept simple answers in this progressive day and age!” In that case, let me tell you about some of the solutions Big Data offers to combat, well, Big Data.

Driving Apps to Combat Driving Apps…

The most convenient solution seems to be more driving apps. We know what you’re thinking and don’t worry, the irony is not lost on us either. But the sad truth is that most people are addicted to their cellphones. And unfortunately the younger generations have proven to be the worst offenders.

What really complicates matters is that the game has changed. We’re not just talking about texting while driving anymore. This is Live Facebook streaming your most recent political rant while crawling in traffic. This is playing with Snapchat filters while traveling to your BFF’s wedding. It’s scrolling through Spotify, obsessively searching for that perfect song to define this most “epic” of college road trips. In short, we’re talking about internet usage while driving; the perils of unlimited data.

Safer Driving

Verizon Wireless, along with our old friend the DMV, highlights some popular driving apps that can “help us all be safer, less-distracted drivers.” Cellcontrol, a subscription-based service, seems like the go-to for fed up parents around the globe, but it requires installing a corresponding dashboard device to custom-disable cell features. Less invasive apps like Drive Safe Mode, Live2Txt and LifeSaver block cell phone use while driving—mostly calling, emailing and texting. Some even provide an automated response to anyone trying to reach you.

Perhaps the most cleverly designed driving apps are the ones utilizing a rewards-based program to encourage safer driving. Drive Beehive, SafeDrive and even some insurance company-owned apps provide the opportunity to earn points for conscientious driving. Those points can then be redeemed for coupons, special offers and discounts on insurance premiums.

Most factory-installed infotainment systems or external GPS devices can no longer be fiddled with (outside of voice commands) while the car is in motion. And even apps like WAZE, that offer points for usage, prompt drivers to pull over before inputting a destination. Common sense dictates that if you must use a driving app, utilize your passengers’ thumbs. And if you’re flying solo, just be smart. If the 4G network drops that friendly British narrator in the middle of a complicated series of turns, have confidence in your own inner compass.

Big Data, Big Brother

Driving apps as a solution for distracted driving may seem appealing to those who just can’t imagine commuting without their phones. It would be wise to remember, however, that using an app that monitors your driving behavior is still using an app. And that means that those seemingly altruistic Big Data companies are still gathering lots of money-making information from every move you make.

So c’mon, stick it to the man; show Big Brother who’s really in charge here. Turn off the phone and appreciate real driving again. When the autonomous cars take over in 25 years you’ll be paying good money to get that feeling back on some touristy race track in the mountains.

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