We provide gift cards – real money, not just discounts -- to young drivers that drive distraction-free. You might ask why we would do such a thing. It is the fact that car crashes are one of the leading causes of death for young people in the United States that drives our mission. Distracted driving is dangerous for drivers of all ages but is especially risky for young drivers due to their inexperience. While distractions can come in many forms for young drivers, cell phone use while driving continues to be a common practice. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, handheld cell phone use tends to be highest among 16- to 24-year-old drivers. The 2019 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 39% of high school students admitted to texting or emailing while driving within the prior 30 days. A driver is four times more likely to crash when talking on a cell phone while driving, regardless of whether it’s handheld or hands-free. That crash risk increases to 23 times more likely if someone is texting and driving.
To address the prevalence and inherent danger of cell phone use while driving, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute developed a smartphone app (called You in the Driver Seat, or YDS) with the specific purpose of deterring young drivers from using their phone while driving by providing incentives not to do so. Our smartphone app provides the driver with a score for each trip, awards points for safe trips (i.e., scores of 100 that entailed no distracted driving) and rewards young users (with gift cards) for driving distraction-free as they accumulate points (and safe trips) -- instilling the idea that Responsibility has its Rewards®. In early 2022, a national study indicated that distracted driving had increased (i.e., worsened) by 30% during the pandemic. In stark contrast, a recent analysis of our smartphone app users shows that long-term users of our YDS app are driving distracted 20% less and have 15% higher driving scores than short-term users, suggesting that the app is significantly enhancing safety on our roadways and saving lives. Given the bigger picture context of what is currently happening across our nation’s roadways, these results are both encouraging and somewhat amazing. The visibility offered by your contest and the prospects of receiving an award and/or related recognition for our efforts would greatly enhance the awareness of this free app’s availability and benefits. Thank you in advance for your kind consideration of recognizing our team’s efforts and mission.