Distracted Driving Apps: Can They Save Lives in Indiana and Illinois?


Distracted Driving Apps: Can They Save Lives in Indiana and Illinois?

Last month, a teenager living in Berwick Township, New York, released a free mobile app designed to stop distracted driving crashes across the country. It’s called “DAVE.” And again, it’s free for anyone who wishes to download the app. (Check it out here.)

Seventeen year old Michael Ryan, Jr., is the app’s creator. He built DAVE in response to the tragic death of five friends in a distracted driving car accident. Here’s what this free app does:

  • Blocks all notifications on your phone, and it works when you are driving, or in class, or at work.
  • Blocks the user from sending text messages as well as viewing incoming texts.
  • Blocks incoming calls, they don’t ring but route to voice mail.
  • Gives option of selecting up to three (3) phone numbers as exceptions — these will ring at any time. (So mothers can reach their sons, for instance.)
  • Disables apps on the phone, so email, Twitter, Snapchat, etc., will not disturb or distract.

It is password protected, so once DAVE is installed and activated, only those with DAVE’s password can change its settings. Which means parents can place this on their children’s phones and once DAVE is activated, the children will be protected from driving distracted by the app itself.

Apps to Protect Against Distracted Driving

We’ve discussed different ways that the marketplace is working to find products that work to protect against distractions while driving. See, “Fighting Fatal Distracted Driving Accidents in Indiana and Illinois: Law and Technology,” published on January 14, 2016.

That was eight months ago, and already Michael Ryan’s DAVE app had some serious competition — things like Cellcontrol ($129/one car); Sprint’s Drive First (costs $2.00/month); and DriveSafe.ly ($7.99/month) are already available.

Of course, they cost money. And they weren’t created by a teenager for teens.

Will the DAVE distracted driving app work better than these others because it’s free — or because teens will appreciate the message coming from another teenager, who is passionate about fighting against distracted driving accidents?

It’s not clear. We can hope — and we can wish the very best to Michael Ryan Jr.’s continued success!

However, the bigger question remains if these apps are powerful enough to curb that temptation, or perhaps even need, of some drivers to use their phones while they are behind the wheel.

The Temptation to Use the Phone While Driving

It is known that EIGHT people are killed every DAY in this country from distracted driving accidents. And that’s before the phenomenon of Pokemon Go.

Reports across the country are that people are playing Pokemon Go while driving — and drivers distracted by the game are crashing into innocent victims and causing accidents. One Pokemon Go distracted driving story reports of a driver so distracted that he drove his vehicle into a parked police patrol car.

A new research study reports that 68% of teenagers in this country admit to using apps on their phone while they are driving their car. This includes checking social media like Facebook as well as music apps. Almost a third of the teens questioned in this study confirmed that they text and drive.

Key to this study: the teenager’s perspective on phone apps. They may or may not agree that texting while driving is dangerous, but they are even less likely to view phone apps as distractions. For many teens, their phone apps — like maps and music apps, are tools for them to use. A whopping 58% of the teens surveyed admitted to using navigation apps while driving. An even higher number, 64%, acknowledge that using apps while driving is dangerous but 46% still report they routinely use music apps while driving.

And before you suggest that texting while driving is much more dangerous than a music app, watch a teen go thru their phone’s playlist for awhile and then consider how safe music apps are when that teenager is driving a motor vehicle.

Indiana and Illinois Laws Against Distracted Driving

Most states have passed laws prohibiting distracted driving and using a phone while driving a motor vehicle. Only four states have not done so. Of course, having laws on the books is the first step in combating distracted driving. It doesn’t stop it from happening, of course.

  • Indiana provides a ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for novice drivers and a ban on texting for every driver.
  • Illinois law bans all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for bus drivers and novice drivers; as well as banning any driver from texting while driving or using a handheld phone while driving as well as using a cell phone in any way while driving in a school zone or in a highway construction zone.

It’s difficult for police to see people who are using their phones illegally as they are driving down the roads, and this combined with the widespread perception by many drivers that they can handle driving and texting or talking on the phone, means that these laws may not be that effective in stopping distracted drivers.

Distracted Driving Deaths in Indiana and Illinois

Fatal car crashes and serious auto accidents where people are severely hurt and permanently injured are horrible life events not just for the victim, but for their families and loved ones. It’s not just the teen driver that may be hurt or killed. It’s their passengers. And it’s the innocent victims who are hit by that distracted driver.

From a personal injury justice perspective, the fact that there are more and more free and/or low-cost apps out there for teen phones suggests that these apps need to be promoted and used. DAVE is free, and other similar apps cost only a few dollars a month. These apps will stop distracted driving car crashes. They will save lives.  But only if they are installed on these phones and used.

And at some point, the question will have to be asked after a future fatal car crash, was it negligent not to have one of these apps securely placed on the teen driver’s phone before the distracted driving crash? Be careful out there.

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