It took Melissa Gerbrandt two months to stop texting and driving with the help of an app.
But now she’s literally driving off into the sunset with a free car after learning to focus on the road and not her phone.
The sixth-grade teacher from Landmark, Man., discovered Texi, an app that monitors whether you fiddle with your phone while driving and awards points that are redeemable for prizes when you don’t.
Gerbrandt, 26, took home the grand prize last week — a new Honda Fit — after she collected enough points and her entry was chosen in the contest.
“I always used to feel like I was missing out if I left my phone behind,” she said while picking up the keys to her new ride at the Markham Honda dealership, near Hwy. 407 and Kennedy Rd. “When you start the habit of having your phone on you, it’s hard to disconnect … I was very persistent with it. Quitting cold turkey doesn’t really work.”
Philanthropist organization Dilawri Foundation created the app as a way for drivers — both young and old — to stay focused on the road and not be distracted by text messages on their phones.
Before a driver puts their keys in the ignition, they turn on the app and switch it to “on.” The app — equipped with sensors that detects when the vehicle is going over 7.5 km/h and calculates distances travelled — awards drivers points. If a drivers touches a phone, the points go to zero for that journey.
“It will not reward you for touching your phone,” said Rosita Chakardan, director of the Dilawri Foundation. “On the android, any incoming texts receive an auto-response with a fun meme. Along with the meme, it says that so-and-so is driving right now, so your contacts are aware you’re driving and you’ll get back to them.”
Chakardan said the foundation created the app to deal with the alarming number of collisions which are caused by distracted driving.
According to the Canadian Automobile Association, motorists who engaged in text messaging are 23 times more likely to crash or be nearly involved in a collision compared to non-distracted drivers. And 80% of collisions and 65% of near misses have some form of driver inattention as contributing factors.
The app still has some bugs to be worked out. If you run Google Maps, the Texi app still needs to be running in the forefront. But then you can’t see the map while you’re driving.
If you toggle through apps using voice-activated technology, the app thinks you’ve touched your phone and then takes away the points for that ride.
“It was our response to create safer roads and go beyond just an awareness campaign,” said Chakardan. “It was also to give a solution that every Canadian can download and use to form good driving habits and stay safe.”
Source: BY JENNY YUEN, TORONTO SUN
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