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App Rewards Distracted Driving

May 10, 2016.

The Snapchat Lawsuit: How an app (inadvertently?) encourages teens to text and drive recklessly.

 

textingdrivingYou may have heard of the recently filed Snapchat law suit, which has drawn tremendous media attention given the potential liability of this Silicon Valley giant and its connections into our teenagers’ lives. For those who don’t know, Snapshat allows users to send messages and images to one another that quickly disappear. It also has a so-called ‘speed filter’ that records the speed of the phone at the time the message is sent.

One wonders how Snapchat thought this would be a useful feature. Did they think that kids might use it to send photos from the plane on takeoff and landing? Or from some speed train in Japan? (Pictures taken from an Amtrak window wouldn’t impress anyone.) But at any rate, they did—and the awful result forms the basis of this lawsuit.

18 year-old Christal McGee was driving south of Atlanta, attempting to send a Snapchat message at more than 100MPH. According to passenger Heather McCarty, who apparently yelled at McGee to slow down, the speed filter peaked at 113MPH. And then Wentworth Maynard had the misfortune to pull out of his apartment complex onto a road whose limit is 55MPH. After five months in a coma, Maynard emerged with permanent brain damage. Miraculously no one else was seriously injured.

Amazingly, had it not been for a local news reporter interviewing the passengers, none of this might have come to light. The officer on the scene blamed McCarty for pulling into traffic. He had never heard of Snapshat or its speed filter. But McGee, still undeterred, snapped and sent a photo of herself bleeding seconds after the crash with the caption “Lucky to be alive.” Clearly for some, the attraction of social media and these types of apps seems to approach that of life itself.

We think the speed filter could be a very useful feature: to prevent use while moving instead of encouraging it. Snapchat and other social media apps will certainly hear such advice in the coming months. Of course, the problem is that the user might be riding the bus or travelling in the back seat—this is why RoadPoints offers a beacon located in the car to identify the user as driver—but given the choice, perhaps inconveniencing passengers would be preferable to enabling distracted drivers.

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