Texting while driving

Raise your hand if you have ever texted while driving, the people around you are probably wondering why your hand is raised but odds are it is. Now raise your hand if you have ever looked away from the road to find the perfect song or playlist, or even just made a phone call. That should be just about everyone. Even though some of these actions are not illegal, they are all cases of distracted driving, and can be fatal.

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In the most recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report it showed that around 3,500 people were fatally injured and another 391,000 injured in car crashes that resulted from distracted drivers. Those are high numbers, and if you are anything like me, they probably make you stop and think for a little.

Everyone is told not to text and drive, it is not as if the concept of being distracted while driving is new. Yet I have been in the car with people of all different ages, all distracted by their phone. I do not mean to just call people out either, I am definitely guilty of it. Sending a quick text or snapchat, seems harmless enough but for over 9 people for day its the difference between life and death.

My first experience with the subject came when I was about 12. It was the holidays and my older brother was home from college. Being ten years my senior meant he was able to go out and enjoy the bars not too far from my house with one of his high school buddies, a normal thing to do for anyone. He had decided to be responsible and walk that night because he knew he would be drinking and it was only about a mile. As he was crossing the road, only a few hundred yards from my house a distracted driver hit him. I’m lucky to say that he was only injured but it could have been worse. The police report noted that my brother had the cross signal when the driver, who was distracted by their phone and did not expect pedestrians late at night ran the light. According to AAA, even after you put the phone down you are distracted for up to the next 30 seconds. That might not seem like a long time, but at 45 mph that would be almost 2000 feet of distracted driving.

The summer after I graduated high school the topic came up again in a big way. Although I was not fortunate enough to know Merritt Levitan personally, I had plenty of friends who did. She was enjoying her summer riding a bike with friends when she was hit and killed by a distracted driver. After her death, friends formed Merritt’s Way, a non-profit dedicated to spreading awareness about texting and driving, and the real dangers that it poses. You may have seen some of their campaigns, Text Less Live More, reminding people that its worth taking a break to be aware of your surroundings, behind the wheel or not. Although talking about it is a great step to help prevent texting and driving, it cannot be the only one, and with autopilot where it is today we still need to be very aware when we are behind the wheel.

Enter JoyRyde, an app designed by a Middlebury student after his sister was in an accident related to texting and driving. The idea behind the app is relatively simple, reward people for putting their phone down, and leaving it there. The app uses gps technology to track the miles you have driven, similar to most map apps. In addition, the app monitors your phone to make sure you are not doing anything else on it, from sending texts to selecting a song. Although it does not physically lock you out of the rest of your phone, the idea that you will be rewarded for not touching it is often enough to prevent people from using it.

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JoyRyde currently has around 3,000 users, the numbers are growing as this is the first year it has fully been launched, who have collectively driven around 400,000 miles on the app. Although this is far from ending the problem, it is absolutely a step in the right direction. The apps creator Terry Goguen expressed his desire to create the app because he often drove his younger siblings to practices and school, and realized how easy it was to start looking at your phone. He wanted a solution which would appeal to drivers with positive reinforcement, like a game, to keep their phones down. Currently JoyRyde has rewards from partners like Uber, Cumberland Farms, and Give’r, among others. The rewards can range from dollar discounts to free apparel. The idea being that with more users, the potential rewards will keep increasing.

I realize that this is a sort of somber topic, and I do not want to come across as condescending to people who text and drive, again I’m guilty, what I do want is to increase the conversation surrounding the topic so that we can collectively work towards ending distracted driving.

9 comments

  1. Nice post! I wasn’t aware of this startup, but it seems like a really interesting idea. It seems like incentivizing safe driving through rewards is a great idea and it’s also a good opportunity for other companies to do something positive. Hopefully other technology advancements might improve this in the future such as VR and better voice recognition where the driver wouldn’t need to pick up a device (although there would still be the possibility of distraction) or ultimately AI and self driving cars. Great post!

  2. Great post! This is a really important aspect of social media usage we have yet to address this semester. I believe the issue of texting and driving has only escalated amongst our generation due to how reliant we are on social media. I personally have not only witnessed individuals texting and driving but I also have increasingly witnessed individuals using Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook while driving. I hadn’t heard of JoyRyde prior to reading this post but I believe offering concrete incentives for drivers to put their phones away has the potential to be a lot more effective than simple awareness campaigns. While I wish hearing the statistics on how dangerous this habit is was enough, I believe it only causes most of us to pause momentarily but ultimately fall back into the habit of distracted driving in the long term.

  3. Thanks for sharing! I had not heard of JoyRyde before, but I am glad to hear that the app has been creating a positive effect on this issue. It seems to be an interesting idea, and I can see the app really becoming more widely used.

  4. Thank you for sharing! I had not heard of JoyRyde before, but I am glad to hear that it has had positive effects. It is an interesting idea for an app, and I feel like it has the potential to become much more widely used.

  5. Ironic that your “texting and driving” appears right after a post on social media obituaries…

  6. This was a really great post. I think it is so important to continue this conversation as its outcomes have such a huge effect on our lives. I think the increase in texting and driving is a testament to our society’s need to constantly be within arm’s reach of our phones. when most people get in the car they are driving relatively short distances. Thirty minutes will generally get you to work, the grocery story, the movie theater, etc. Why is it that we can’t put our phones down for just 30 minutes, especially when it is so risky to use it while driving? This is a topic that sheds light on the broader issue of the attachment we have to technology where every stop sign or traffic light has us reaching for our phones. Sometimes I throw my phone in the back seat to prevent myself from using it. The bings and vibrations are still distracting though. Thanks for having this be part of our class discussion!

  7. I’m so glad there is an app like this to hopefully help limit texting and driving. For me it is extremely hard when I am using GPS so I need to have the sound on so I constantly hear the binging of my phone. I wish there was a way to silent all text messages except for the ones with the words “emergency” or “call me right now” in it. I know these text messages do not come often but driving when you know a family emergency is happening is dangerous for me as I want to get there fast so I’m driving over the speed limit and I want to check my phone everytime it bings just in case there is an update. Interesting to see if similar apps to this one will come along that may have more restrictions.

  8. Awesome post. I think it’s important that you continue to spread awareness on the dangers of texting and driving since you know so much about it. So many of us are guilty of this, but I think we continue to do it because we don’t truly realize or comprehend what could actually happen. It reminds me of middle school when I took D.A.R.E. (Drug abuse resistance education). I’m not even sure if they still have that program or if it’s something else now, but I distinctly remember being shown up close and personal images of healthy lungs vs. the lungs of a smoker. They stuck with me because they showed the gruesome truth, and I will never pick up a cigarette because of them (among other reasons). Unfortunately, until people have those up close and personal experiences with texting and driving like you have, it probably won’t “stick” enough to make them really think twice about doing it. I do, however, think your presentation brought more of this awareness and hopefully changed some minds in the audience. Thanks for posting and presenting on this topic!

  9. Positive rewards tend to have a better effect than the potential of negative consequences so I think they may have a chance. My bet is that eventually AI and other tech advances will make this a problem of the past as I’m hoping the day is just around the corner when I can be like Iron Man with a sick robot suit and Jarvis in my ear. If I can see and hear where I’m supposed to go without looking at a tiny screen, or listen to texts and respond hands-free (maybe even without talking) it could be a problem of the past. On the other hand, I know studies have shown that passengers in a car can increase the likelihood of accidents because they can be a distraction too. The difference is a passenger is more likely than someone on the phone to recognize when they should be quiet to let the driver focus. Good post!

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