App tracks family's distracted driving habits - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

App tracks family's distracted driving habits

The 'Canary' app tracks location, speed, and frequency the phone is unlocked and used while driving. (Source: WAFF) The 'Canary' app tracks location, speed, and frequency the phone is unlocked and used while driving. (Source: WAFF)

It's a deadly habit and it's on the rise. Texting and driving kills thousands in this country every year. The numbers have app developers scrambling to come up with ways to stop it.

"No parent wants to get that phone call or that knock on the door from the Sheriff's saying your child has been involved in a wreck," said mom of three, Beth Whelpley.

That fear runs deep for Whelpley. Two of her children are driving, and one will be hitting the roads soon. All of them are admittedly addicted to their smart phones.

"I feel bad if I don't reply, so I just text them back," said Stevie, a high school senior. "It takes me about five seconds to reply."

But that quick response can quickly turn deadly. When driving 55 miles per hour, five seconds is enough time to cover the length of a football field, while essentially blindfolded, according to research from the Virginia Tech Institute.

Daughter Katie was hit by a distracted driver years ago, learning first-hand what's possible when someone's not paying attention.

But even still, the siblings say the habit is hard to kick. So what about a little assistance? 

We asked everyone, including mom, to download a distracted driving app on their phones called Canary and use it for a week. 

The app can track your location, speed, and every time you unlock or use your phone.

"Talk about texting being addictive, I found myself looking at (the app) all of the time," said Whelpley.

The app sent her reports every day, showing her how fast her children were going, and when and where they are. It also alerted her to when they picked up their phone behind the wheel. Whelpley said she was a little alarmed by the number of times those alerts came through.

Maybe more disturbed by the usage were the young drivers themselves.

"I was looking at my iPhone report and I was like 'Oh my goodness,' just looking at how many times you just, not even thinking about it, picked up your phone and unlocked it," said Katie.

"When I came in she said, 'Stephen come here,' and I was like, 'oh gosh I am in trouble,'" said Stevie.

Trouble with mom this time, but it could be way worse.

"It is bad enough to be in a wreck, but to know it is because they were texting and driving or because someone else was texting," said Whelpley. "And it is not just their lives, it is the other that can be ended as well"

Katie and Stevie say while they may not have loved mom knowing their every move, the app certainly deterred them from reaching for their phone behind the wheel.

"If you don't want to have to bury your son or your daughter or anything, I would get this so that you don't crash texting and driving," said Stevie.

Whelpley believes while useful, an app alone isn't enough to solve the problem.

"I think we are going to have to back it up and be consistent with punishment for it and not just say that it is something they do," she said.

The Whelpley family says the app wasn't perfect, but it was a wakeup call for the whole family.

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