The Speedometer App

Michael M

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The epidemic of distracted and reckless driving has exponentially increased ever since the introduction of smartphones just a few years ago. And now that instant messaging and social media are practically a click away, the urge to check our phones whenever they ding, buzz or ring has become an instinct. Unfortunately, this instinct has carried its way onto the roads, thus distracting drivers to the point where our easily-used phones are winning the battle for our attention against our two-ton carriages of steel. While campaigning against distracted driving has been effective, raising awareness and reducing fatal crashes, it still remains an incredibly serious problem across the country. I believe the best means of solving this issue is to physically halt the use of the driver’s cell phone entirely. My idea to prevent distracted driving resides in an app that will track the speed of the phone (since it’s in the car, the app, in turn, tracks the car’s speed) and once it exceeds a certain speed, it will force the user of the phone to perform some sort of action on the screen that requires both hands to reactivate the phone. Now let me explain further in precise detail. When the app is downloaded, it will require the user to register their fingerprints from at least two fingers on each hand (most likely the thumb and the index finger). Once the fingerprint scan is complete, so is the setup. The app is now ready to be activated when driving. As long as the phone is traveling less than 15 MPH, the app will not activate. But as soon as the app detects a speed over that number, a screen will automatically pop up on the phone that will not be able to be removed once the requested action is complete. The action or test will force the user to use both hands in order to clear the pop-up screen. The purpose of the test is to allow passengers to still use their phones, but not to let driver take both their hands off the wheel (since much of the distracted driving occurs with one hand of the wheel and one hand on the phone). The test, for example, may make the user place their right index finger on the fingerprint scanner while with their other hand draw a circle, a straight line or some sort of pattern to ensure the user has complete focus on the phone and not the road (for the passenger). If the driver attempts to perform the test while driving, they will have to take both hands off the wheel, which even the driver will know is a terrible idea. But even if the driver tries to cheat and use one hand, he still will be unable to maintain a firm position on the scanner while drawing the intended shape. Therefore the driver cannot “cheat the system” and attempt to use their phone and drive at the same time. While it is possible for the driver to unlock the phone while stopped at the red light, since his speed is at zero for a few seconds, the app will still force the test to be completed as soon as the phone reaches that maximum safe speed. Therefore the driver will be able to use their phone for just a few seconds while stopped, but not while they are moving. The reason I believe this app is the key to preventing distracted driving is because it exploits the key difference between the driver and the passenger: the use of their hands. The driver obviously must use their hands to steer the wheel, while the passenger typically has no use for their hands. This is why the app requires the use of the hands during the test, to prove that the passenger is indeed using the phone, not the driver. This idea of an app is a simple one, one that can be expanded and improved later, but for right now I believe that it should be a mandatory application on everyone’s phone, so that everyone on the roads can safely drive looking up instead of looking down.