App aims to curb distracted driving by tracking your phone

- Text and drive and your insurance rate could soon rise.  A new app could soon reward or punish drivers depending on their phone use behind the wheel.

Developers Arity, a tech company under the Allstate insurance brand, just launched the new software and is courting insurance providers to take it on.

The app would be voluntary and go on users smartphones. Using the phones internal mechanisms the app tracks everything from use to movement of the phone once it is traveling at the speed of a moving vehicle.

In other words: you text and drive and the app logs it, you talk on the phone and drive and the app logs it, if you even pick up the phone while driving the app will know it.

Arity VP of Data Science Grady Irey said the aim is to better assess the risk of users by understanding how they use their phone on the roads.

There’s no shortage of efforts right now to curb those habits.

At the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Simulation and Training researchers have continually examined the topic of distracted driving with phones.

Researcher Lauren Reinerman-Jones said through their simulators and technology they continue to find the same thing as many other safety experts: phones and driving are only becoming more of a problem.

"If you text on it, talk on it, use your music on your phone: it's more distracting than even a regular MP3 player or talking to somebody else in the vehicle,” she said.

The Florida State Legislature is also currently considering a bill that would make texting while driving a primary offense.

The app aims to give drivers a different incentive: the chance to save money.

If the app does get picked up by insurance providers, users will have to overcome one other detail: the loss of that phone privacy. 

Irey reminds though that use of the program would be completely voluntary.

"I think the fact these programs are optional, voluntary programs is part of what makes them work,” he said. "There's a lot of people that would raise their hands and say, 'let me prove that I'm not the one using my phone while driving.”

As for GPS use, users are advised to set any routes before the car starts moving and use a cradle or phone holder to prevent signs of active use. Users can also simply put their phone into airplane mode while driving to eliminate the destruction all together.

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