Apps designed to cut down on distracted driving

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Springfield, MA – Texting and driving has become a serious issue for drivers of all ages, but most notably among teens.

More than eight people are killed every day in the United States due to distracted driving. Over 1,100 people, according to the Center for Disease Control, are injured each day involving a distracted driver.

“Whether it be a text message, a call, social media, it’s not worth doing while driving,” said Sam Borges, sales manager at AT&T in Holyoke.

Although no generation is entirely innocent of the practice, AAA finds that teens are among the drivers most impaired by distraction.

So, as a parent, what can you do to combat distracted driving? As with most other things, there’s an app for that!

For this story, we looked at AT&T’s Drivemode and Lifesaver.

Both apps are supposed to silence your texts, phone calls, and other notifications, so you can focus on driving. They also let parents know when the app has been disabled or deleted.

Borges said that Drivemode is popular among parents who agree the app is useful

“Especially when it comes to tracking the kids looking at the phone and driving, it’s obviously something that makes them very nervous. So its nice to know the app is up and running and your child is safe and not looking at their phone while they drive,” Borges explained.

Ted Chen, co-founder of Lifesaver Distracted Driving Solutions, said that once his oldest child was learning to drive, he needed something to fix the distracted driving issue. That’s when the Lifesaver app was invented

“What we decided to do was use technology to solve a problem that’s created by technology and in doing so, not only is it just hey were blocking you from using your phone, it has to be automatic, but two, it has to be measurable because if it’s not measurable, then you cant improve it,” Chen explained.

The Lifesaver app allows parents to track their teen’s phone usage while driving, reporting any bad behavior to a dashboard website set up by the parent.

“Then I know because I have a record of it and I can say ‘Hey, let’s talk about why you did this and let’s try to make sure you don’t do this in the future’,” Chen added.

Lifesaver also offers a reward system or score keeping system that’s set up on a monthly basis where points are deducted every time a person does something inappropriate on the phone, but the app only works through accountability.

“We’re measuring good behavior, driving behavior, so if you unlock your phone as a passenger, that also gets recorded and measured, so you kind of know whether they were driving or take their car out or with a friend, so if you know this pattern already, then you can keep them accountable,” Chen said.

Both Drivemode and Lifesaver have passenger unlock features, essentially allowing phone usage while driving. but anytime the phone’s unlocked. it will be reported to the parent.

Western Mass News Brittany Murphy downloaded both apps onto a cell phone to put them to the test as a passenger in a vehicle.

With the Livesaver app, it told Brittany that she had a score of 100, despite her being on the phone texting and using apps, and it did not chip away from that safe driver pointage system like its supposed to.

“I think part of the difficulty is Apple being very difficult to work with on a developer platform,” Chen said.

As for Drivemode, the Bluetooth gets disabled when you have the app running, along with a few other glitches.

“Those are things we are proactively working on, so it works flawlessly,” Borges added.

At&t Drivemode is free on any Android or Apple iPhone. Lifesaver app is also free, but after sixty days. users must subscribe to use the dashboard feature, although the cost isn’t too steep.

Another option is to just turn off your phone completely when you get behind the wheel.

By Brittany Murphy & Ryan Trowbridge, WSHM