New app alerts parents when teen driver breaks driving laws - - Columbia, South Carolina

New app alerts parents when teen driver breaks driving laws


It's the kind of story you see too often: a family broken by just a few seconds of inattention due to a cell phone.

"Statistically speaking, a teenager is more likely to die in 2012 because of this than because of drinking and driving," said Steve Leicht, CEO from 52apps, a group trying to create a cell phone app every week for a year.

On Wednesday morning, an initiative called The Canary Project kicked off at IT-ology in Columbia.

"Many of the programs you've heard of -- Alive at 25, Mothers Against Drunk Driving -- started a lot like this," said Jani Spede.

Made up of several organizations and elected officials, it centers around an app with the same name. Install it on your child's phone, and it alerts you when they exceed a set speed, use their phone when they drive, or go beyond an invisible fence you set up. It's developed by Columbia-based 52apps.

"The goal being when the teenager, when they hear their phone vibrate, ding or make a noise, they won't want to pick it up, because mom and dad will find out about it," said Leicht.

Leicht says it's about starting a discussion. Canary is meant to change behavior, not babysit.

"It's not about being Big Brother; it's opening dialog, it's the communication, it's allowing us to change behavior by having an impact on our young adults," said Brooke Russell

The project will also work to push for anti-texting legislation, create driver training courses, and launch public service announcements. The app, though, is available now in Apple's App Store and the Google Play store. It's free for a week, but after that, it's $7.99 a month. 

Having tested it among the developers, Leicht says it works.

"If Bill was speeding, my phone would start dinging and dinging and dinging, and if Chris was texting and driving, my phone would ding," said Leicht. "What we discovered is, the fact that other people know, gets you to stop doing it."

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