Her bloody face and brace adorned neck only slightly covered by a slither of text, “lucky to be alive.” This was a Snapchat Georgia teen Christal McGee sent out after crashing her Mercedes into another car while driving at 107mph. The driver she hit was not so lucky; he spent five weeks in ICU fighting traumatic brain injuries. Today, he needs a walker or wheelchair to move around and can no longer work. He was an Uber driver at the time of the crash in September, 2015.
The aftermath snap was not her first of the day, according to a lawsuit filed by the hit driver’s family suing the 19-year-old McGee and Snapchat. The suit alleges the young woman was using the app’s speed filter while driving, hoping to send out a picture of her reaching 100 mph.
While the suit is now on hold after Snapchat claims McGee’s Activity Logs don’t show her using the app at the time of the accident, it’s only the most recent highly publicized crash to echo the lawsuit. Well-known music producer DJ Khaled crashed his Ferrari 459 Italia while allegedly snapchatting. In England, a driver was sentenced to six years in jail for killing the driver of a car he collided with at speeds over 80mph; the judge cited the man’s previous use of snapchatting while driving in his sentencing decision. Until McGee however, Snapchat was never directly sued; some claim the app is about to become a target for personal injury lawyers.
Craig Heidemann, a Springfield car accident attorney and partner at Douglas, Haun, & Heidemann, P.C., says while Snapchat may be a new phenomenon, including the speed filter as one of their latest updates, it’s not a new trend. The trend he’s referring to is distracted driving– driving some have argued equally as deadly as drunk driving.
There are three primary types of distracted driving: visual, manual and cognitive. Using Snapchat would hit all three. According to the company, that’s why the speed filter reportedly displays the warning, “don’t snap and drive.” Unfortunately, warnings or hard to watch commercials or true tales like McGee’s don’t always work. So how can we convince younger or frequently distracted drivers of the real and deadly dangers?
Maybe the answer is in more apps.
This app, created by people against distracted driving (PADD), allows parents or friends to reward the driver once they hit a designated number of safe miles. Working on either iPhone or Android, the “Sponsor” – most likely the parent- enters a reward and the number of safe driving miles the driver needs to redeem it. The driver must open Drive Beehive prior to driving, prompting a lock screen on the phone that tracks the miles. Unlock the phone while driving, and the miles are reset to zero. It’s simple for both parties to use and seriously, what’s better motivation than a legitimate reward?
Any downsides? There’s not too many from the driver’s perspective; however, the app doesn’t block phone calls or text messages so the temptation of notifications remains. But again, the reward may be enough for the 16-year-old to realize it’s okay to wait until they get to their destination to check their phone. Plus, young drivers in particular may fight back more on apps that do stop their phone from functioning.
Drive Alive Lite
Also sponsored by PADD, Drive Alive Lite tracks safe miles that are racked up and entered into lotteries for prizes like cash or free gifts. The lite version is free and like Drive Beehive does not block texts or phone calls. And, if the phone is used while driving, the whole trip is canceled out. Once the driver hits an hour of safe driving, they’re entered into the lottery system.
This app is a great alternative for parents who don’t want to give or can’t afford to personally reward their children as with Drive Beehive. Plus, it works on iPhone and Androids. That said, the lottery prizes are usually in the few dollar range. Free money is always great, but $1 or two a month may not keep the teen motivated for a lifetime.
Would you text or call a friend if you knew they were driving? This app hopes the answer is no. It places a red or green light next to people’s names in iMessage, FaceTime, WhatsApp, and the phonebook. A red light means they’re driving, triggered when the car hits speeds of at least 5 mph. A green checkmark next to their name means they’re not driving and a free to use their phone. Both users must have the app for it to work.
Wonder is simple, making it a win for users. No tracking, no bribes also known as rewards, and no costs and does not block texts or calls from coming in. However, the most notable downside comes from the reviews before downloading the app. The current version tops out at three stars while “all versions” hit four stars. The biggest complaints from users suggest the app takes upwards of five minutes of driving for the green light to switch to red.
The Canary Project is more of a tracking system for parents. While the app doesn’t block texts or calls from coming in, it does alert parents through a text message or email when their child unlocks their phone while driving. Parents may also set alerts for speeding or driving outside a preselected area- based off the GPS- or for missing curfew. They’ll also get an uplifting text when the driver gets to their destination without using their phone. Depending how far parents want to take their monitoring, this app is an affordable option with a $14.99 lifetime subscription fee.
Cell Phone Provider Modes
AT&T, Sprint and Verizon all have various “drive modes” to help prevent distracted driving. AT&T’s DriveMode may be automatically turned on when a car hits 25mph and vice versa (though some users claim it takes up to five minutes for it to shut off). Navigation and music apps are the only programs that run while in the car. Sprint’s Drive First can automatically lock the phone screen when speeds reach 10 mph. Calls, texts, and all but three apps are blocked while driving with the only exception being five pre selected contacts who will never be blocked or when the car is hooked up to bluetooth. Parents may also be notified if a cell phone user turns off the Drive First app. Finally, Verizon’s Safely Go must be manually activated by the driver. It allows for three “VIP” contacts and three apps that will never be blocked.
Growing up in a technology-savvy era defined by instant gratification and a desire for online popularity undoubtedly fuels the rise in distracted driving. Snapchat is one of the most popular apps for millennials, celebrities and businesses. Even older generations are becoming daily users. Fortune estimates the four-year-old company based in Los Angeles is worth between $18 and $20 billion with no signs of slowing. So just as Snapchat and other apps aren’t going anywhere, neither is driving (well, until driverless cars). But there are solutions out there for distracted driving.
Do you think any of the aforementioned apps would help your young drivers stay off the phone while driving? Have you tried any or used other ones? Let us know, we would love to hear about it.