What do you get when you mix Justin Bieber with a distracted driving campaign? PhoneGuard is hoping you get a whole lot of teens downloading its Drive Safe smartphone app. The app automatically disables texting when the phone is moving 10 miles per hour.
Last week, the makers of PhoneGuard started a campaign featuring the teenage heartthrob and the Alex Brown Foundation. Alex Brown was a teenager killed by texting and driving and is showcased in the U.S. Department of Transportation's distracted driving public service commercials. Her family has been speaking out against texting while driving ever since, even shlepping her smashed-up vehicle around to prove the point. They became famous when they appeared on Extreme Makeover. (The public service video will bring tears to your eyes. Imagine how heart wrenching the Extreme Makeover show was.)
PhoneGuard will be giving away one of Bieber's autographed jackets to those that download the app and register. The app is free on both Android and BlackBerry, though oddly, no iPhone version is available yet.
An app is an interesting approach that parents can use to try and protect young drivers. According to its makers:
The Drive Safe application enables global positioning satellite (GPS) tracking to calculate the speed of travel while a vehicle is in motion. Once vehicle speed reaches 10 miles per hour, the Drive Safe application locks the phone's keyboard, preventing the user from emailing, surfing the web or texting while driving. Other Drive Safe features include an Auto-Reply button, a pre-set response that is automatically delivered to the texter or caller and reads I am driving and will contact you when I reach my destination; a Request Permission button that allows users to request permission from the administrator to have functionality of the mobile phone; and an Admin Override button, allowing the administrator to type in a set password to override PhoneGuard's System Settings so that specific mobile functions can be utilized. For example, if a child is riding the bus, Drive Safe will know he or she is in a moving vehicle and will disable the phone. The child will then hit Request Permission, which sends a text message to the administrator. The administrator can then text "yes" back to the disabled phone, unlocking the phone for 15 minutes. After this time limit, the keyboard will be disabled again.
While anything to do with Bieber gets a whole lot of attention, there's a couple of problems with the app and the campaign. Many who have tried it are complaining on the Android marketplace that it zaps a phone's battery. Plus, a smartphone app won't stop the millions of texting phones that aren't so smart.
But even more than that ... most of the kids that love Bieber aren't old enough to drive yet. The comments from some of them on the Android Market are adorable and prove the point: "I hope and will pray that I have the chance to win his jacket," wrote one. Another explains, "I can't drive yet. But downloaded it for mom. I told her to use it for Alex Brown! And she just started to cry, remembering Extreme Makeover."
Still, a technological solution might be one good method, combined with lots of education. In that, Drive Safe isn't the only choice. Others include Text No More, Drive Safe.ly, On the Move and ZoomSafer.