The SAFEcell app - available in the iPhone app store and downloadable for Android OS - bills itself as "The perfect solution to the growing problem of distracted driving."  I am *all for* the fight against distracted driving, so I was interested in giving this app a try.

First, the app uses GPS technology to chart your location, then pulls up all the cell phone and texting laws and ordinances in your area.  It makes this information available to you in written form on the screen, and also gives you an audio message of the rules.  We have a school near our neighborhood, and on every trip back and forth, the pleasant computer voice told us, "You are now entering a school zone.  Use of cell phones is prohibited."  What I found amusing was that she never told us when we were leaving the school zone, but the indicators on the screen did change.  Meaning...you would have to look at your phone to see the difference.  I felt this defeated the purpose of not being distracted while driving.

Also, there is a feature to disable calls and texts once your vehicle travels faster than 5mph, BUT, this is only available in the Android OS app.  It does not work on the iPhone.  I still had texts and calls coming through while using the SAFECell app, which was again - distracting.

You can also see from the image above that the SAFECell app has easy access to stop or pause the app, which makes sense for emergencies, but just provides an "out" for people who want to make or receive calls anyway.

Perhaps the only thing that might give people the incentive to actually use this app (since disabled services don't work on the iPhone, and because there's an easy 1-button remedy for turning of the app) is the unique rewards program SAFECell has built into its use.  Basically, the program charts each trip and gives you points based on whether or not you obeyed all the cell phone and texting laws.  You get one point per "safe" mile, and 500 points add up to a $5.00 gift card to participating retailers.

The trick is, though, what SAFECell considers "safe" and how many points it decides to award you for any given trip.  I received "penalties" for pressing Pause during a trip and stopping in a parking lot to call home, and for an interruption in service when my phone had troubles connecting with my data network.  The makers of SAFECell suggest you Stop and save your trip if you are going to park or pull off the road to make a call, then Start a new trip when you're ready to resume.  Otherwise, yes, you'll get docked points.  (which begs the question...why even have the Pause option at all?).  And penalizing me for my spotty reception is just plain aggravating.  

If I look at my driving habits as a work-at-home mom who does not commute and rarely travels by car, I drive about 500 miles a month.  So after one month I could earn $5.00 from SAFECell if I used the app EVERY SINGLE time I got in the car, had no interruptions in service, and remembered to never press "Pause" on the app, even if I was safely parked in an area making a call.

I don't know about you, but that seems like an awful lot of effort (and luck!) for $5.00.

This app currently sells for $11.99 (yes:  eleven ninety-nine) and I feel is ultimately a poor investment and does little to truly motivate drivers who are intent on using their phones while driving.  For the rest of us who want to be safer on the road, save yourself some money and use a little sense:  just turn off your phone in the car!

 

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