App Spotlight: SafeCellApp – Get Paid to NOT Use Your Phone While Driving

SafeCellApp (not to be mistaken with the ‘radiation blocking’ SafeCell) has taken an interesting approach to smartphone app usage and distracted driving.  Instead of blocking features, the SafeCellApp will pay you $1 per 100 miles (it’s really 1 point per mile and 100 points per $1 aka $.01 / mile) you drive without violating texting or cell phone use bans.  By using your location to check the local laws the app can decide whether that call you just made was legal or not (for example by detecting whether or not you used a hands free device).  Users will be awarded points for positive behavior and will lose points for negative behavior (no word on if you’ll have to pay the SafeCell if / when you end up with negative points).

At $11.99 that’s 1,200 miles of distraction free driving just to make your money back.  Earnings can be redeemed via eCards and gift cards which is great and it seems like there are lots of Rewards Partners.  I drive about a 100 miles a day so I’d be curious to try this out, but I don’t have an iPhone or Android phone (WebOS RULEZ!).  If I drive 500 miles a week and somehow managed to not text for any of those  approximately 12 hours a week I’d earn $5 a week or $260 a year, which isn’t much, but more than I earn for not texting now (which is zero).  In theory, already ‘safe’ drivers should benefit by being paid for something they are already doing.

It’s a novel approach to the rapidly growing problem of distracted driving.  In essence paying people to have good driving habits is intended to offset the inconvenience of not using your phone.  Most people would argue that the increased driving safety should be payment enough, but that theory carries varying weight with different people.  Maybe the financial incentive will be enough to put some people over the top about less distracted driving. Personally, I don’t think the amount is enough to move the needle. If not getting in a accident isn’t motivation enough a few cents isn’t going to make a difference for me.  In fact, I’d happily PAY $1 for every 100 miles to be able to use my phone throughout my entire drive more safely.

In the end, I’m sure this approach will do more good than harm, but there is no way it will be the solution to distracted driving.  Mobile devices are only becoming more ingraned in our daily lives and the tendancy to use them while driving will only increase.  Whatever the solution to the distracted driving problem is, it will be a solution that enhances the user experience, not something that looks to limit it.

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