Distracted driving isn’t a new problem, but thanks to cell phones and smart devices, the rate at which distracted driving accidents occur has increased significantly. Everyone is susceptible to distracted driving, but teens in particular struggle to overcome this safety hazard.
According to the federal government, 10% of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. Many of these teens were texting, using a cell phone or smart phone, or eating and drinking while they were driving.
While technology may often instigate distracted driving, it can also help us solve the problem. We’ve curated a short list of apps and devices designed to keep drivers focused on the road, and their hands on the wheel. Share these ideas with friends and family, and together we can reduce distracted driving accidents across the board.
Driving requires focus and attention. The National Safety Council states that car accidents are the second most common cause of preventable deaths in the United States–accounting for over 20% of fatalities annually. Any distraction– such as texting, eating, or tinkering with the radio–can put drivers at an increased risk of injury or death while driving.
In 2011, the Pew Research Center found that 35% of Americans owned a smartphone. By 2021, it had increased to 97%. This increase has had deadly consequences for drivers. According to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2018, 14% of all reported traffic accidents involved at least one distracted driver. Moreover, 5% of all fatal accidents involved a distracted driver, including 8% of all fatal accidents involving teenage drivers.
Texting while driving is especially dangerous because drivers must divert their vision from the road for five seconds to send or read a text message. At 55 miles per hour, vehicles will travel over 100 yards–the equivalent of a football field.
While texting and driving is the most common, any multitasking puts drivers at risk. A study by Carnegie Mellon found that listening to a conversation using a hands-free cellular device is associated with a 37% reduction in driving-related brain activity in the parietal lobe. This reduction resulted in drivers drifting into adjacent lanes and reduced reaction times in driving simulation tests.
Distracted driving poses a significant risk–not only to the driver but also passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers sharing the road. This is reinforced by research from the University of Utah–distracted drivers are over five times more likely to be involved in an accident than non-distracted drivers. The study also found that using a cell phone impairs drivers similarly to alcohol– illustrating the risks people take by diverting their attention from the road.
For families with teen drivers, cell phones are a great way to keep track of where family members are at any given time. But calling or texting a teen while they’re behind the wheel is not a good way to avoid distracted driving.
The LifeSaver App blocks phone use while driving, let’s parents know their teen has arrived safely at their destination, and helps avoid distracted driving by blocking all text messages and calls.
This free app is easy to install and runs silently in the background on most Apple or Android devices—once installed, set it and forget it! Plus, this app easily allows you to invite new friends to join, so you can track all your family members and avoid sending them distracting messages while they’re on the road.
LifeSaver also offers a business version for fleet operators called LifeSaver for Fleets.
AT&T Drive Mode
For AT&T subscribers, the Drive Mode app offers automated shut off of some features signaled by the speed of your car, but still gives you access to phone features you may want while you’re driving.
Once installed, this free app automatically activates when you drive faster than 15mph. Unlike other apps that lock the phone completely, this app allows you to access music and navigation capabilities, but blocks text massages from being received.
An automated message is sent to anyone who texts you while you’re driving, letting them know you’re behind the wheel, and it can wait. We like this app because it’s spreading the message that distracted driving is dangerous and should be taken very seriously.
Most new cars include hands-free Bluetooth technology, the ideal way to avoid fussing over a smart phone while driving. Older cars may not have these features built into them, so we recommend small gadgets like the Parrot Minikit; and at $49.99, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than buying a new car!
The Parrot Minikit includes features that let drivers stay connected while concentrating on the road. Ideal for adults with long commutes, on-the-go-parents, and anyone who finds himself distracted by a cell phone in the car.
Just clip this small device to your sun visor and sync it to your phone; you can take calls hands free, send text messages… Just tell it what you want it to do—it’s that easy.
Leading by Example with Safe Driving
Advocating that teens stop using their cell phones in the car is one way to avoid disaster, but leading by example is much more effective. Whether you’re a parent, an executive, or a busy teen driver, everyone should avoid distracted driving. These nifty apps and gadgets make it a little easier to do just that.