Mobile app promises to ease distracted driving


by Andy Treinen

Posted on May 5, 2014 at 11:34 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 6 at 5:58 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Distracted driving in the state of Kentucky killed more people last year than drunk and drugged driving combined.

For some reason, we can’t stop.

Last year, 163 people were killed in distracted driving crashes on Kentucky roadways.

Louisville Metro Police Lt. Joe Seelye said you don’t have to tell people not to text and drive.

“That’s when it becomes real to you, and personal to you, and think that’s when you make some ultimate changes,” he said.

Even the shortest text message takes your attention from the roadway, where things are changing by the second, and focuses your attention on your handheld device.

In the time it takes to open a cell phone and reply to someone in a text, a car changes lanes in front of me, a light turns yellow, then red – and all of the traffic in front of me comes to a stop.

"It’s an addictive thing and you hear that ding or that phone ring and you have to find out what is somebody trying to tell me," Seelye said.

Bill Bell, the executive director for Kentucky’s Office of Highway Safety, said we’re 23 times more likely to be in an accident if we’re texting and driving. It’s one of the reasons why Louisville Metro Police has partnered with the state for a new campaign.

In 2012, LMPD wrote 50 texting citations, in 2013 180 and already in 2014, they’ve written 123 but it’s not easy.

“It’s challenging to say you are actually texting because technically you can make a phone call,” Seelye said.

Seelye said he thinks distracted driving is distracted driving and he makes the point that calling someone can take longer than texting.

He was extremely interested in an app now available to the public to stop us from doing both.

“I can’t text. I can’t call. I can’t look at anything it just locks this in,” Seelye said.

Dr. Keith Lyle, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Louisville, said there are two reasons we can’t stop texting and driving.

First the Ziegarnic effect, which explains our need to respond immediately to texts.

“If people have not completed a task then that task does sort of haunt them, filling up their minds resonating with them until it can be completed,” he said.

But the biggest problem, Lyle said , is this grand illusion that we’re taking in everything around us when in reality we have no idea what we’re not paying attention to.

"Part of what we learn from cognitive psychology is I can't control myself and I need something or someone else," he said.

A Louisville man has designed an app to help us with that control.

David Meers said he created to keep his teen daughters from distracted driving. It uses GPS and literally locks your screen when the phone exceeds a designated speed. Hands-free talking, music or spoken directions continue to work. 

"We wanted to make sure the functionality of the phone was still there but we stopped people from the distraction of picking up the phone, looking at it, touching the screen etcetera," Meers said.

The app also tracks a phone's location every five minutes, sends speeding alerts and tracks battery life. If the app is turned off, parents get an alert.

"They can see the location of their children or employees every five minutes and it drops a small breadcrumb in the shape of a cell phone on a map," Meers said.

The state of Kentucky is so impressed, it’s partnering with Text Limit - offering the app free for at least a year.

Click here for more information or to download the app.