• 6 Mobile Applications to Prevent Distracted Driving Accidents

    Using a phone or smartphone while driving is dangerous not only for you, but also for those around you.

    When employees use hand-held cell phones while driving, whether to text message, read and respond to e-mails, or even make phone calls, they are posing a serious danger to themselves, other motorists, and the company’s bottom line.

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), on-the-job crashes cost employers more than $24,500 per crash, $150,000 per injury, and $3.6 million per fatality. And distracted driving caused by hand-held mobile device use is an emerging contributor to these accidents.

    Employers are often held liable in distracted driving cases because of a legal doctrine known as “vicarious liability,” which charges employers with legal responsibility if the negligent act is committed by an employee acting within the “general scope” of his or her employment.

    Also at stake for fleets is the risk of penalties and fees for violating state laws cracking down on cell phone use while driving. As of press time, 33 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have banned text messaging for all drivers. Eight states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. In addition, several other states have anti-distracted driving legislation pending.

    For the latest listing of state laws banning cell phone use, go to www.distraction.gov/state-laws/index.html .

    While a growing number of fleets have enacted strict policies governing cell phone use while driving, the challenge is this: How do you enforce these policies — especially if you’re managing fleets consisting of dozens, or hundreds, or even several thousand drivers?

    Here are six mobile applications that automatically disable certain functionality within wireless devices while a vehicle is in operation, equipping fleets of all sizes with a practical tool to enforce policies that reduce distracted driving accidents and minimize risk exposure.

    Several applications are available to help curb cell phone use while driving, including:

    • Sprint’s Drive First
    • FleetSafer Mobile
    • DriveSafe.ly
    • Textecution
    • Cellcontrol
    • Kyrus Mobile

    Sprint’s Drive First Application

    Available in third quarter 2011 for Android smart phones for $2 per month, Sprint’s exclusive Drive First application disables some of the phone’s functionality when a driving situation is detected, locking the driver’s cell phone screen and redirecting calls to voice mail, while allowing access to three key contacts and three mobile applications, such as GPS navigation or music apps. It also blocks text message alerts and auto-responds to the message sender that the driver is currently unavailable. The system gives business administrators online access to configure Drive First for employees’ mobile devices.


    FleetSafer Mobile Application

    FleetSafer Mobile is an application designed by ZoomSafer (now Aegis Mobility) specifically for commercial fleets, available for Blackberry, Windows, and (coming soon) for Android mobile devices. The software automatically locks the phone during driving to prevent calls, texts, and e-mails. It also sends auto-reply messages to incoming texts and e-mails. Customizable and flexible to enforce most corporate distracted driving policies, FleetSafer Mobile can be triggered either by telematics, Bluetooth, or GPS systems.


    DriveSafe.ly Application

    DriveSafe.ly is a mobile application created by iSpeech that reads text messages and e-mails out loud in real-time and automatically responds without drivers touching the mobile phone. It’s available for Blackberry, Android, and iPhone (and coming soon to Windows-powered mobile phones). Price per phone is $79.90 annually or $7.99 per month.


    Textecution Application

    Once Textecution recognizes that the phone is traveling faster than 10 mph, it disables the phone’s texting features so text messages cannot be sent or received. The app is available for Android devices for a one-time cost of $9.99.


    Cellcontrol Application

    Instead of using GPS to determine vehicle movement, Cellcontrol leverages Bluetooth-enabled technology that directly integrates with the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics to determine motion and implement policy. Compatible with more than 1,000 devices, Cellcontrol disables more than the cell phone; it also prevents distracted driving from other mobile devices, including laptops and tablets, which may tempt drivers to take their eyes off the road.


    KyrusFleet Application

    Kyrus Mobile offers its KyrusFleet application, which disables texting and other distracting applications on cell phones and other mobile devices. KyrusFleet enganges what the company calls “Safe Mode” automatically when a given vehicle starts moving. The system administrator can configure specific settings based on company policy. KyrusFleet does not track employee location, read text messages, scan emails, web traffic, or monitor phone calls or record driving behavior. KyrusFleet works on phones running Android 2.2 or newer; Blackberry 5.x and newer; Apple iOS 5.0 and newer; and Flip and Feature phones running Java or BREW.


    Did You Know?

    Consider the prevalence and dangers of distracted driving based on these statistics compiled by Distraction.gov, the official U.S. government website for distracted driving:

    Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.

    Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

    In 2009, 5,474 people were killed on U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Twenty percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving.

    Source: NHTSA

    Using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the 0.08 percent legal limit.

    Source: University of Utah

    What’s Your Distracted Driving Policy?

    Here is an example of Sprint’s Employee Pledge: “I will set a good example and engage in safe driving practices in my personal life by avoiding risky behaviors like texting or e-mailing while I am operating a motor vehicle. When I’m behind the wheel, I will keep my focus on driving.”

    Source: www.sprint.com/focusondriving

    Updated 8/19/2013

    Note: The original version of this article lised iZUP as a provider. The original text from the article for this company is below.

    iZUP Application (No longer in business)

    Developed by Illume software, iZUP holds incoming and outgoing calls, texts, and e-mails when it detects that users are moving faster than 5 mph. Drivers are allowed to pick one application, such as navigation, when iZUP is on, while the administrator is equipped to monitor compliance, edit settings, and receive alerts online. iZUP is available for Blackberry and Android devices for $2.95 per month.

  • An Automotive Gift for Mother’s Day? You Bet!

    It’s time to be seriously thinking about Mother’s Day. A great place to look for useful ideas is her driver’s seat, especially if Mom spends a lot of time behind the wheel.

    Her vehicle is her home away from home and gifts that enhance her enjoyment of that second home are likely to be appreciated, suggests Rich White, spokesperson for the Car Care Council. “We tend to gravitate toward gifts like jewelry, a framed photo or flowers,” he says. “But why not break from the traditional and dress up her car? Maybe she’s always wanted a sunroof or a cool sound system. Her wish could come true, with the help of your local auto specialty shop or service dealer.”

    White suggests that, beyond the obvious gifts such as seat covers or floor mats, Mom might appreciate having her damaged steering wheel replaced with one that’s stylish, possibly even leather covered. A sun-damaged and faded dash could be repaired, replaced, or recovered to upgrade the interior. How about a GPS navigation system, remote starter, or satellite radio?

    “Security devices such as a remote keyless entry or alarm systems are also popular add-ons,” says White, “as are custom wheels or wheel covers. Most women are interested in the safety and appearance accessories as opposed to those, which are performance related. Gifts can be inexpensive. Net shopping bags, that hook on back of the driver’s seat, are great gift items too. Just look around”

    Right on the heels of Mother’s Day, of course, is Father’s Day, with additional categories of gifts to consider: special tools, custom rims, window tinting, or sound system enhancements, to mention a few. “Gifts for vehicles are always well received and the variety of innovative products never stops growing” adds White.

    For more ideas and prices visit your auto supply store, service dealer, or specialty shop.

    The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” campaign, educating consumers about the benefits of regular vehicle maintenance and repair. For more information visit www.carcare.org .

  • Go Long! Ten Tips to Make Your Trips Between Fill-Ups Last Longer-And Three Myths That Won’t Help

    If you’re like most people, you dread heading to the gas pump these days. There goes that extra latte you were hoping to get later in the day. Then dinner out Friday night. Braces. College for the kids.

    Okay, so maybe it’s not THAT bad, but gas prices are high. And while we know the standard copout in these types of articles is the simple “buy a smaller, more fuel efficient car” or “carpool,” for most of us those simply aren’t options.

    To that end, we’ve gathered this expert advice that can save you money at the pump (plus a few things that don’t work as advertised). Because little Jimmy really wants to go to a good university!

    1. Easy Does It
    It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating that the more aggressively you drive, the more gas you’ll use. It’s that simple. Ease up on the jackrabbit starts and coast into stoplights instead of jamming on the brakes. Aggressive driving, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town. (An independent study by Edmunds.com found that driving in a “moderate” fashion can improve a driver’s mileage a combined 31 percent!)

    2. Don’t Speed
    I know, I know. It’s the hardest rule to follow. But did you know the national 55-mph speed limit (when it still existed) was enacted not as a life-saving measure (that was the unexpected benefit) but as a fuel-saving measure? Fuel mileage for vehicles rapidly declines at speeds above 60 mph. In fact, according to the DOT, each five mph over 60 you drive is like paying an additional $0.29 for gas (at a U.S. national average of $3.65 per gallon). Slowing down can save you as much as 12 percent on gas versus speeding. That might be worth extending your trip by a few minutes!

    3. Clean It Out
    For many of us, our trunk is like our closet, a catchall repository for the clutter in our lives. But did you know an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your fuel mileage by up to 2 percent. That’s about $1 a fill-up, which might not sound like much, but could mean an extra latte a month in savings!

    4. Shut ’Er Down
    Several independent tests have shown that if you are going to be idling for more than a minute, it is more cost effective to simply shut your car’s engine down, and then restart it when you need to. After all, an idling vehicle is getting zero miles per gallon!

    5. Cruise to the Beat
    Remember that Edmunds.com test we mentioned earlier? That same test found using cruise control versus your foot can save an average of about 7 percent on fuel economy, a fact backed up by DOT statistics. So any time you’re out on the open road, turn that cruise control on.

    6. Pump ’Em Up
    It’s perhaps the easiest way to improve your car’s fuel economy: keep your tires properly inflated. According to the DOT, properly inflated tires can improve mileage by up to 3.3 percent. Plus, properly inflated tires are safer and last longer. And now, several states require service facilities like dealerships and fast lubes to test your tire’s inflation for you.

    7. Smooth the Airflow
    Anything sticking off your vehicle interrupts the airflow and increases drag, so if you’re not using that ski-rack or bicycle-rack, ditch it. (And if you have a sunroof, keep it closed if you want to save gas.) No, you won’t look as macho or outdoorsy, but your credit card won’t have to work as hard when it comes time to fill up, either.

    8. Keep It Tight
    According to the Car Care Council, loose, missing or damaged gas caps cause 147 million gallons of gasoline to simply evaporate into the air each year. Not only is this bad for the environment, it also costs you a little bit of money over time. No, making sure your gas cap is tight (or replacing it if it’s damaged) won’t double your fuel economy overnight (you might not even notice a difference), but you will be doing Mother Nature a favor and saving yourself a few cents in the long run.

    9. Put Your Foot Down
    My grandmother, God bless her, was a two-footed driver her entire life. Her right foot she kept on the gas, her left she kept resting on the brake pedal. If you drive like her, you might not realize that even the smallest bit of pressure on the brake pedal causes the brakes to clamp down. You might not even feel it, but even the tiniest bit of mechanical drag from the brakes can suck your fuel tank dry in a hurry. Plus, it wears out your brakes prematurely, as well, and a brake job is equal to a bunch of lattes!

    10. Shut ’Em Down
    So you’ve dropped off the kids at school; now what? Well, for starters you can turn off the rear air conditioner (if you have one). Air conditioning is just one of a number of power-sapping accessories your car might have. Others include navigation systems, entertainment systems and anything else that draws electricity. Shutting off these systems (especially rear A/C) when not in use can result in a small but noticeable improvement in fuel economy. Every little bit helps!

    Fuel Economy Myths

    While we wish every little tip and trick would yield substantial savings in fuel economy, the truth is that some tips widely touted in the press and elsewhere are simply not true. To whit:

    1. A Breath of Fresh Air

    Okay, so we’re guilty of publishing the myth that a new air filter can improve fuel mileage, as well, but in our defense the DOT study that refutes the myth of “new air filter equals better fuel mileage” just came out recently. Turns out that a new air filter really only helps if your car has a carburetor (and a whole generation of our readers just said, “What’s a carburetor?”). However, the same DOT study did find that a new air filter will improve acceleration, so if your only concern is keeping your sports car in peak performance, a new air filter might be for you.

    2. Fill Up When It’s Cool Out

    According to the folks at Consumer Reports (who test these things religiously), the temperature of fuel varies little during the course of a day, so there’s no real benefit to topping off the tank during the cool part of the day.

    3. Keep Pumping

    Some “hyper-mileage” blogs have recommended over-inflation of tires as a way to improve fuel economy. And while it is true that doing so can create a small bump in mileage, it also increases wear on the tires and decreases the “contact patch” where your tires are touching the road. This can upset the vehicle’s ability to steer and stop, especially in abrupt, accident-avoidance situations or when it’s wet outside. Better to pay a few more cents at the pump than risk your life.