The same technology that has multiplied behind-the-wheel distractions may be used to promote safer driving.
Distracted driving was to blame in the deaths of three teenage boys this month on an interstate near Hudson, Wis. That news story, and thousands of others like it, takes Kate Reschenberg's breath away.
Especially because her 16-year old son, Jack, is set to get his driver's license next month.
"It's a nerve-racking feeling," the Plymouth woman said. "Their lives could be over in an instant ... you can't always be in the car with them, but you want to do as much as you can to protect them."
Reschenberg hopes a new mobile app designed by a local company will reduce the distractions her son will face as a new driver. Minneapolis-based Drive Power recently launched DriveScribe (www.drivescribe.com) to encourage safe driving habits, particularly among teenagers, and provide real-time coaching to novice drivers.
In the car, DriveScribe screens the driver's performance, tracking speed, sudden movements and compliance with traffic regulations. The app's GPS technology can't actually tell if drivers run red lights, but can determine if they run through stop signs. While driving in the city, users mostly receive speed limit reminders and heads-up on upcoming stop signs.
If drivers speed, the app, which employs a woman's voice, asks them to slow down. When traffic violations occur, parents are notified in real time via e-mail or text alerts.
DriveScribe also has the ability to block text messages, incoming calls and e-mails while the user is in the car. Anyone trying to reach the driver will be notified by a personalized message that the user is driving.
All information gathered during a trip is loaded onto the DriveScribe website, where users can log in to view their own driving performance or, in the case of parents, track how the person they are monitoring performed.
The app has a social media element, too. Teens can compete with friends for the best safe driver score and earn points to redeem for rewards, such as gift cards.
"The ability to take the very device that is distracting most teen drivers and turn it into something that not only coaches them but offers a path to rewards is a game-changer," said William England, founder and CEO of Drive Power.
When Jack gets his license next month, his mom has required him to log in to DriveScribe every time he gets behind the wheel.
"Instead of getting a speeding ticket, he'll get a gift card for staying within the limit," his mom said. "It's a coachable moment rather than a ticket or a tragedy."
Aimée Blanchette 612-673-1715