There's a a new iPhone and Android app offers cash-equivalent awards at Amazon, Apple and other retailers for driving without texting.
A group of studies and statistics in recent years have pointed out that distracted driving is a really bad idea. It can also result in hefty fines in places where it's against the law. It's not just teenagers who can't put down their cell phones, but business travelers also have the constant temptation to tap out a quick message to a colleague or answer the phone when a major client calls. As a result, there are now several apps designed to lock down phones during driving, but some of them are fairly costly and others are complicated.
The new SAFECELLapp takes an age old approach to behavior modification: Rewards.
SAFECELLapp rewards safe driving not just with a pat on the back or a "good job." Users can actually accumulate cash-equivalent rewards to the tune of $5 per 500 safe driving miles with a $250 yearly cap. The awards can be spent at any one of 300 participating vendors, including Amazon, Apple, Marriott and Cabela's. SAFECELLapp manages this by tapping into your phone's GPS capabilities. The company maintains a database of cell-phone use laws and sends them to your phone so you know which laws apply where you are driving. SAFECELLapp can send off an auto-reply to people who call or text you to let them know you aren't ignoring them -- you're just busy driving at the moment.
SAFECELLapp locks out your phone functions when tracking is on. You can tap a button to place an emergency call or pause or stop the app with a quick finger click. Besides accruing positive points toward rewards, users who violate cell-phone laws along the way get hit with negative points. In other words, SAFECELLapp giveth and SAFECELLapp taketh away. Something to keep in mind that when using hands-free headsets, these don't sit well. The app actually views this as taking a call, even if you have both hands on the wheel.
The SAFECELLapp is a recently launched app available for the iPhone and Android. A BlackBerry version is on the way. You have until Dec. 28 to buy at the $11.99 price and get free lifetime upgrades for the software. After that, the $11.99 is an annual subscription fee.