Dangerous Driving: Apps to help you avoid distractions behind the wheel

Dangerous Driving: Apps to help you avoid distractions behind the wheel

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - When you get behind the wheel, you might not realize how distracted your own driving is.

Shocking video from New York State showed a BMW plowing full speed into the back of a Department of Transportation truck mounted with a camera. Authorities said the driver of the BMW was distracted at the time.

The problem with people staring at their phones while behind the wheel is undeniable, according to Rankin County Sheriff's Office Investigator Marcia Stingley

“You see people driving interstate highways going 30, and they’re about to get run over because they’re distracted,” she says.

We asked Stingley to try out three apps: Lifesaver, Drivewell, and Motovate, all designed to discourage drivers from using their phones.

But she’s not doing it alone. For the past couple of weeks, I have also been trying the apps.

First, let’s dive into Life Saver. This app took a few steps to set up. You have to change some of your settings to get it to work. The app works in the background while you’re driving, and when you arrive, you can click dashboard to see how you did.

Along with measuring your safe driving hours and number of violations for each trip, it can also text map coordinates to another user, like a parent, when you arrive at a location. That way parents know where their children are.

My dashboard showed 13 hours of safe driving time with 9 usage violations. On most of those occasions, my son picked up my phone and I didn’t have the “passenger unlock” feature activated.

This is the first app I tried. So wouldn’t you know it, I picked up my phone accidentally once or twice while using it! A message appeared on my home screen that said, “Keep your eyes on the road.” I put my phone down pretty quickly when I saw that.

I also tried Drivewell. Just like Lifesaver, the app can detect when driving starts and stops, and it can recognize when you pick up your phone for a social media check. But this one also uses the phone’s sensors to provide details about your maneuvers.

Here are some of my results. On April 12th I drove through Brandon, and had a stellar score. Five stars on all points: braking, acceleration, cornering, speeding, and phone use. But it was a different story the next day when I drove to Vicksburg. While the app liked my acceleration, cornering, and phone use, it didn’t like my speed at all on Interstate 20. The app also didn’t like my braking either. I redeemed myself on a shorter trip on the same day. Everything great, except braking again...

The third app I tried is called Motovate. It’s simple and straightforward. It measures whether or not you pick up your phone. If you don’t, you collect points and your parents or even your employer can reward you on those points. If you do pick up your phone, you lose all of your points.

I received high scores with Motovate. All of my trips were considered safe!

Parents can create personalized reward systems for their teenage drivers online through Motovate. It sends notifications so their kids know what prize they can expect.

One feature that hung me up: you need to open the Motovate app in the foreground before your trip. It took me a few times to remember to do that.

Stingley thought each app was effective. She says she took to LifeSaver the most.

“It held me accountable,” she says. “When I looked at the data to see how many times I overrode the system to answer a call, it made me want to do better. If you’re a parent and you want you monitor your child and what’s going on, LifeSaver is good for that also.”

She encourages families to test out the apps, and choose one that best suits individual needs.

Cell phone use is just one of many distractions behind the wheel. EHS Safety News America listed some of the others:

1. Daydreaming.

2. Rubbernecking.

3. Talking to, or looking at, other occupants.

4. Reaching for objects.

5. Eating or drinking.

6. Adjusting controls inside vehicle.

7. Moving object inside vehicle, such as a pet or an insect.

8. Lighting cigarettes and other smoking-related activities.

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