Laura waits at the red light. She pulls out her phone and opens Facebook. A new message from Josh. He’s asking her to dinner. “Do it,” says her brain. “Be careful,” says her heart. “You’ve been hurt before.” “Keep your eyes on the flippin’ road,” say the three other people in the car as Laura speeds off.
We’re making light of the situation, but distracted driving is no joke — and with the advent of smart phones, it’s becoming an epidemic. Two decades ago, the thought of checking your email at a red light was ridiculous, and Facebook didn’t even exist. Today, data plans and in-car Internet connectivity allow carriers and content providers to pipe distractions into our vehicles like never before. To call it a problem is an understatement.
Others haven’t been as lucky as Laura in the example above. The reality is that texting — or any number of other digital distractions — have created a modern monster that safety advocates are working tirelessly to curb. For every fatality attributed to distracted driving, there’s a number of fender benders and less serious accidents caused by distracted drivers, much of it attributed to our phones.
So how do you solve this 21st-century issue? With a 21st-century remedy, of course. It doesn’t get much more ironic than fighting smartphone-based distractions with a smartphone app, but enter JoyRyde, a mobile program designed to not only relieve you of distractions on the road, but to reward you for their absence.
It’s worth mentioning that JoyRyde, at the time of publishing, is still in beta — that is to say you can’t get it on Apple’s app store just yet. But that hasn’t kept it from attracting some big-name attention; Green Mountain Power, one of New England’s larger utility companies, has sworn its allegiance to the service, promising to put it to work in its fleet as soon as it’s ready for showtime.
For the user, the app is simple. You fill in some account data (email, password, etc.), and you’re brought to the main dashboard. Prior to embarking on a drive, you turn on your app of choice (Pandora, Spotify, etc.), minimize it, select JoyRyde, push the wheel-shaped button, and go. The app tracks your mileage — and based on how far you drive, will reward you with points.
Those points can then be redeemed for coupons or donated as cash. It could be a free coffee at a gas station chain or 15% of some goods at a local merchant. As JoyRyde grows, so will the opportunity for spending points. But here’s the catch: Once you leave the JoyRyde app, the counting stops. No more points. No more free coffees. The longer you travel without using your phone — with the app turned on — the more points you’ll accumulate.
In the good old days, common road distractions included applying mascara while traveling 75 miles per hour, shoving a Big Mac down your face while soaring through a school zone, catching up on the Monday crossword puzzle, getting dressed, or all of the above simultaneously. JoyRyde can’t solve those, but it can certainly help alleviate the most pressing distractions for millennial drivers, most of which stem from their handheld devices.
Texting while driving is already illegal in many states, and prohibiting the operation of a handheld while behind the wheel is quickly becoming the favored strategy as accidents, claims, and fatalities owed to texting and driving increase. Some states have even dedicated stopping lanes for the sole purpose of making phone calls. You know it’s illegal, dangerous, and ill-advised, so why not accept JoyRyde’s offer?
Don’t count this out as a toy for teens either. Adults have been proven to be as active texters as teens, sometimes more so. Don’t like coffee? Donate your points as cash to the Wounded Warrior Project. JoyRyde will give you that option. “AT&T found that the threat of a suspended license appears to be the most effective deterrent, followed by the possibility of a $500 ticket,” says The Washington Post. How about we avoid that scenario entirely and get free coffee or help veterans instead?
So, when you’re behind the wheel, put down your Facebook, your Snapchat, your Tinder, Grindr, or whatever “-er” you’re into. It can wait, and you know it. We shouldn’t need to be incentivized to be safe on the roads, but we’re all guilty of it. Laura’s dinner with Josh will still happen and should happen without risking the occupants of her vehicle. Do the right thing, and take a JoyRyde.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.