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Combating distracted driving with apps

If you have been following our blog, you are aware of the dangers associated with distracted driving and have read about laws enacted to prohibit drivers from engaging in dangerous practices. If people are aware that texting and driving are a dangerous combination, why do they continue to engage in this behavior?

Some psychologists believe that our desire to text, in spite of this risks associated with this activity, arises from the positive feedback that our brains provide when we respond to a text message. Triggered by a ping or buzz programmed into the phone, a chemical called dopamine is released whenever we anticipate receiving a reward. In this case, a response to a text message is the reward. When we get and reply to a text, these good feelings reinforce our notion that texting is beneficial even if we know we could become injured while texting and driving.

It's not just teenagers who succumb to the siren song of an incoming text notification; adults admit to texting while driving as well. According to an AT&T survey, nearly half of the adults surveyed revealed that they sent messages while driving. This number is larger than the 43 percent of teenagers who professed to engaging in the same activity.

The remedy for this problem is simple: turn off the phone while driving. Most cellphone owners are loath to power down their phone for fear of missing an important call from a friend or family member. In certain situations, this excuse is valid. Fortunately, there is another solution that allows cellphone owners to communicate with senders without thumbing a message while driving.

The following cellphone applications allow the driver to remain in contact with others without becoming distracted and also provide documentation of driving habits that can encourage driving safety:

1. DriveMode

This app is free to AT&T subscribers with Android smartphones. The software detects when the car is driven at speeds over 25 miles per hour. At this time, the application blocks incoming texts and emails, notifying the sender that the recipient is driving. To reduce the driver's temptation to pick up the phone, the application silences sounds that signal a new text. Incoming calls are directed to voicemail.

2. DriveScribe

This application is free to all smartphone owners. In addition to blocking the texts and calls, the app advises drivers on their speed with warnings. Using the data obtained during the drive, parents can discover whether their children ignored stop signs or drove too fast.

3. Canary

For those interested in observing the smartphone owner's habits during the course of a drive, the Canary application provides real time information regarding the driver's speed, location and cellphone usage during the journey. While it doesn't block texts or calls, it can supplement other blocking applications.

It is tempting to check the phone during an errand run, but please remember that most messages can wait. You may think that you have the dexterity to tap out a message as you are driving; however, a lot can happen on the road during five seconds of distracted driving.

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