Top reasons for distracted driving-it’s not what you think.

And the top Distracted Driving Apps to help with it.

As some of you know, I am kinda big on driving safety. When I started my Master of Public Health my main focus was on sexual and reproductive health but the world was asking me to look at another public health issue- driving safety. Notice I didn’t say road safety. Getting involved in driving safety was a direct result of what I was witnessing every day in my neighborhood. And it wasn’t the roads, it wasn’t the weather, it wasn’t the school’s transportation policy, it was human behavior. Today I continue to research on what drives people to engage in risky, careless or dangerous driving behavior and the best, evidence-based practices to stop it.

Some quick facts to give you context. Florida is ranked number 2 in the United States for pedestrian fatalities according to the Governors Highway Safety Association Report for 2019

Doris Saves Lives (FL)- Poster Winner. FLHB91 Wireless in a School Zone

Florida holds 7 of the top 20 metro American cities with the highest fatalities for pedestrians. The Tampa Bay Area is 4th in the nation!

Smart Growth America recently published their latest Dangerous By Design Report and the results aren’t good. Pedestrian fatalities are up, by a lot. While this report focuses on road design to increase safety, distracted driving behavior is one problem we can’t design our way out of.


Did you know Florida passed a hands-free law?

So if you knew nothing about these statistics in Florida but live here, I am sure you have had at least one near crash incident as a pedestrian, cyclist and/or driver.

We are all guilty of it…

Bottom line. If you have a smart phone and/or an intelligent, smart vehicle loaded with a gigantic dashboard, you have probably engaged in distracted driving at least once. It’s very easy to judge the person who is texting on their phone and the reason you couldn’t get through the green light. But based on what I am hearing, the reasons for distracted driving may sound pretty well, reasonable and common to you.

  • I only answer my phone when my child or husband/wife/girlfriend/mother are calling me.
  • I look to see who is calling or texting, and if it’s not from someone important, than I don’t answer or text back.
  • I only use my phone for the navigation app.
  • I only use my phone to change the song on my playlist.
  • I only check my phone when I am at the light.

Whatever the reason, on average it takes a person 5 seconds to look at their device.

But 5 seconds doesn’t seem so bad, right? Try it. Close your eyes for 5 seconds while sitting at home or work (desk job) and imagine not looking at the road for those 5 seconds.

Now would you want the person behind you or at the intersection light doing that while they are driving? No.

So far in my research, what I am hearing is that people, in general:

  1. Don’t see looking at their phones as dangerous. They only perceive danger when they text back while driving.
  2. People don’t think talking on their phone while driving is dangerous. Even though cognitively multi-tasking reduces a person’s ability to concentrate on one specific task
  3. Most don’t perceive their in vehicle screens, calls and navigation systems as high risk distracted driving behavior
  4. Justify taking calls and texts when they are from close family members, partners and work (even though the majority of their calls or texts are from these same people)
  5. AND……………………………mostly are using their phones while driving for………………………………music. That’s right. Changing a song, changing a podcast, putting on music. etc.

And my research isn’t the only research that shows this. Parnell et al, (2020) also found that the top technologies that drivers interacted with and initiated were:

  1. music
  2. navigation
  3. calls
  4. texts

The top notifications they engaged with were:

  1. calls
  2. texts
  3. navigation

Parnell, K., Rand, J. & Plant, K. (2020). A diary of distracted driving behaviors. Transportation Research Part F., 74, 1-14.

So what can you do?

There are a lot of things you can do. First, and foremost. You need to make a commitment to yourself. Checking our phones constantly is so embedded in our culture and engrained in our brains that this is no easy feat. So I am giving you some tips below.

“Hey Baby. if you love me, let me drive safely so I can get back to you sooner.”

  1. Tell your loved ones not to call you or text you while they know you are driving. If it’s an emergency, they need to call you three times in a row, otherwise it can wait. If they love you, they won’t want to endanger you, which is exactly what it does.

2. Offer to help when someone is driving. My child is my designated music changer. He is also my navigator. I am teaching him skills at the same time and staying safe. If you are in the car with a friend, offer to text for them, or look up directions. This is a lot easier than telling someone you are uncomfortable with them driving distracted but also let’s them know its not acceptable behavior to you.

3. Make a commitment to not use your cell phone while driving. This could be as simple as putting your purse in the trunk, your phone in the glove compartment, setting a playlist or podcast for the exact drive time of our journey, or setting your smart phone to Driving Focus. Using one of these apps or techniques below before you start the engine can potentially save your life and someone else’s and greatly reduced your susceptibility of being involved in a minor or serious vehicle crash.

4. Talk to people. Let your teenagers know that music, GPS and talking with all their friends in their car is just as dangerous as texting while driving. Tell your work that if you don’t pick up immediately it’s because you needed to pull over first. Ask your girlfriend not to get upset if you don’t text back immediately. Culture is hard to change but you could be the start of something that will start a rippling effect.

Keep reading below for smart phone applications that are recommended from various sites, but also I have started a list of features that can be used.

5 Driving Safe Apps according to Germania Insurance

  1. OneTap. Blocks calls and texts. Sends automatic message AND parents with teens can monitor the app with theirs.
  2. EverDrive. Rewards you and promotes friendly competition for the doing the right thing. Good app to share with friends to help with “social norming”.
  3. AT&T DriveMode. Above 15 mps it silences calls and texts. Not ideal if someone is actually going the speed in a school zone of 15 or less. Have to be a customer for the app to respond to incoming calls and texts. Good for parents of teenagers on an AT&T family plan.
  4. DriveMode. Different from the others. Helps the driver respond to a phone’s functions in less time by offering voice activated commands for navigation, texting, etc. as well as large buttons.
  5. Do Not Disturb Feature. This is one I have been using for a while. A lot of people do not know that there are ways to enable it, without missing important messages and calls, as well as a one-time setting change for just when you are driving. Of course, this isn’t much help when it comes to playlists and navigation systems on your phone while driving.

Here are others not mentioned in the above. ** means it was mentioned two or more times across multiple articles.

Farm Bureau Financial Services.

  • DriveMode**
  • EverDrive. This one is unique in that it also tracks braking, acceleration, speed, cornering and cell phone use. A little safe competition.
  • LifeSaver.** You can get weekly reports for employees and family members. Free. Android and ios.
  • TrueMotion Family.
  • TextDrive. Specific to all you Android users. Free.

American Safety Council

  • AT&T’s DriveMode**
  • Sprint’s Drive First
  • Sprint’s Safely Go
  • Text No More
  • Canary

Other mentions.

  •** Not free. Voice freehand.
  • Sprint’s Safely Go. Ability to lock app on a minor’s phone.
  • Text No More. Get free coupons and its free. Instead of automatically detecting when you are driving, you set driving time for blocking incoming calls and texts. If you have a hands free device, you can still receive incoming calls.
  • Canary**. This app will actually alert you if your teenager is texting while driving and preset speed limit.
  • DriveSafe**. Android. Emergency mode turns off blocking if call comes in 3 times in a row from the same person.
  • HUM. Helps you track the driver location, speed, acceleration and vehicle health.

Technology or featureWhere it can be usedCreator or ManufacturerHow to Use
CarPlayVehicleApplePhone apps and services are transferred to vehicle screen.
Do Not Disturb (Under Focus)iPhone; anytime it is engaged;Apple- iPhoneSilences alerts and notifications, has to be manually turned on/off, unless set during “Focus Time”
Driving (Under Focus)iPhone, With CarPlay, With Bluetooth, While drivingApple- iPhoneAutomatically silences call and notifications when phone senses driving, can set auto reply message to select people, no one, or all people, can select specific people whose calls and notifications are allowed while engaged, can be activated when CarPlay is engaged, manually, or when car Bluetooth is engaged.
Flight Mode/Airplane ModeiPhone Blocks calls and texts messages when engaged.
Siri Dictate iPhone  Voice activated, “Hey Siri” and she looks things up and answers back for you.
BluetoothHeadphones, Vehicle, Phone, Radio Wireless- pairs with the vehicle sound/stereo system can be used without screen- connects through a charger cable in the vehicle if the vehicle does not have wireless.
Ask Siri/ Siri DictateiPhoneiPhoneSettings (siri & Search)- “Hey Siri”, Announcing notifications

Am I missing a great app or suggestion to help yourself or another? Let me know in the comments! You could potentially save a life. And please share! Research is no good if it does not get into the hands of those who need it. Drive safe everyone!

New Tampa Road Safety Group

The catalyst for this group was based upon my experiences walking, cycling, running and driving around New Tampa. I had (and continue to have) too many near runs in with vehicles and witnessing really bad driving behaviour. This ranged from drivers failing to stop for me or my child in crosswalks, to parents dropping their kids off in the middle of the road to avoid the car rider line. When I started off in public health, I never expected pedestrian and cyclist safety to be my biggest focus. Yet here I am. And I think its aptly suited since public health should be identifying key issues and target populations instead of pushing agendas on communities. If you live in the New Tampa area, feel free to join our group. You can find us on Facebook and NextDoor. Our mission is to:

  • increase driver consciousness around pedestrian and cyclist safety in our neighborhood;
  • increase law enforcement presence and enforcement of road safety in our community;
  • make texting while driving a ticket-able first offense (UPDATE: this has happened!);
  • increase road design and infrastructure to make our neighborhood more pedestrian and cyclist friendly.

If you live in the Cross Creek Community and are tired of people cutting in at the intersection of Bruce B. Downs Blvd. and Cross Creek Blvd. while taking a right hand turn onto Cross Creek Blvd. then this cause is for you! If are feel you are being mowed down by cars while walking thru a pedestrian crossing, then this cause is for you! If you are afraid of cars flying thru your residential neighborhood, get involved. By advocating  our concerns and ideas to our local law enforcement and government representatives, we can make the change we want to see.

Intersection of Wild Tamarind Drive and Bassett Creek Drive, K-Bar ranch. Flags provided by Sidewalk Stompers and Advent Health. Buckets provided by me 🙂

If you live in K-bar Ranch and would like to see a crossing guard at the intersection of Bassett Creek Dr. and Wild Tamarind Dr., then let me know! (UPDATE: We got one!). All ready I have started the campaign to install a cross walk for children attending Pride Elementary next year and I need support to push for a crossing guard (UPDATE: Got one of these too-see it pays to be an active community advocate 🙂.

Continue reading to see what we are doing in this community and what he have accomplished, as well as ways you can advocate in New Tampa or your own community to make it more pedestrian and cyclist safe.

Helpful Info

How to make a sign requestCity of Tampa.

If you are wanting to request a sign in your Tampa Neighborhood, there is a link on the City of Tampa’s website

Personally, I am advocating for better signage at the Kinnan Street Cross walk in New Tampa. If you would also like to join me, please tell our local government by making your request at the following Hillsborough County website. Ideally, the picture below is what we would like to see on Kinnan. Flashing beacons that can be activated at the crosswalk by pedestrians. Often, drivers are unaware that pedestrians have the right-of-way in any marked crosswalk, whether there are flashing beacons or not. Same as true at non-intersection crosswalks. Pedestrians always have the right-of-way in Florida. Here is the law if you don’t believe me 🙂

Image result for image pedestrian crosswalk

UPDATE- July 2nd, 2018: Tonight New Tampa Community Members are gathering at the New Tampa public library to discuss road safety in our neighborhood. Please join us at 7pm if you would like to share specific problem areas and/or solutions in the New Tampa area. The library is located on Cross Creek Blvd. 

UPDATE- Aug. 6th, 2018: Thank you to everyone who came out July 2nd. If you want a copy of the meeting notes. Please message me your email. Also, we are looking to have our next community meeting on Aug. 13th. Please join us to hear Gena Torres from Vision Zero.

UPDATE-Aug. 2019: We got crossing guards at Benito Middle School! I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for changing their policy and agreeing to provide crossing guards at middle schools AND for making Benito Middle School one of the first recipients of this change!

If you would more information on this effort, please refer to my advocacy page or contact me directly.
How many times have we seen this?

UPDATE- Nov. 2019: Pete Mirones and I met with Robert Campbell from Hillsborough County to discuss various “hot spots” around New Tampa. While we were meeting with him, we all witnessed cyclists trying to cross the intersection of Bruce B. Downs Blvd. and

Cross Creek Blvd. when the pedestrian light was engaged. Unfortunately, many drivers did not yield or stop for the cyclist, even when they were in the crosswalk.


Here is a list of what we requested and the responses (italicized) we have received thus far:

Mr. Robert Campbell at the intersection of Bruce B. Downs Blvd. and Cross Creek Blvd. (notice he is wearing a safety vest in broad daylight- smart man).

Cross Creek Blvd. and Bruce B. Downs Blvd (BBD)sent to Traffic Engineering

  • A “No-right-on-red” light when the Crosswalk button has been activated for both the right onto Cross Creek Blvd. from BBD and the right onto BBD from Cross Creek Blvd.;
  • Adding a sidewalk on the east side of Cross Creek Blvd. from BBD to Hunter’s Green (currently there is not one);
  • Adding barriers or bollards in or near the bike lane on Bruce B. Downs right hand turning lane into Cross Creek Blvd. to prevent cars from cutting into the right hand turning lane and creating a second turning lane;
  • Extending the median on Cross Creek Blvd. to create a Median Refuge Island for pedestrians and cyclists trying to cross Cross Creek Blvd. at the intersection;
  • Removing the current sign that says the sidewalk is closed when it isn’t at the intersection; Send to Amos Castillo for inspection
  • Changing the current sign that says yield to pedestrians to include cyclist (symbol of bike and pedestrian, as shown on other BBD signs);
Driver obstructing the crosswalk. Pedestrian light is engaged. Road safe barrier was obstructing the sidewalk. There was no need for the barrier there so Mr. Campbell had it removed for us.

Kinnan Street (crosswalk located right before Basset Creek Drive)sent to Traffic Engineering

  • Running the speed display sign at all times for 6 months, not just during school hours (there is a speed display sign there now); No
  • Adding a rapid flashing beacon at the crosswalk on Kinnan Street;
  • Raising the crosswalk;
  • Inserting a must stop for pedestrians sign in the middle of the crosswalk – No
We have asked that they run the solar powered speed sign at all times for 6 months, not just during school hours.
Requesting a Rectangular Rapid Flashing Light Beacon (RRFLB)- pedestrian activated, as well as a raised crosswalk at the crossing. This is the same crossing where a crossing guard stands in the morning and afternoon for Pride Elementary.

Fletcher Avenue and Bruce B. Downs Intersection west bound (corner of Advent Hospital)- sent to Traffic Eng and TMC Operations

  • A “No-right-on-red” light when the Crosswalk button has been activated – TMC on the progression reduction if implemented
  • Adding something to make the bike lane more secure as right now a cyclist isn’t able to use it with the amount of cars that sit in it while trying to get into the right hand land or turn right on BBD.


 Since we have met with Mr. Campbell, we have received two case numbers or work orders from Hillsborough County Traffic Engineering. They are SR333549 and WR1435824. Michael Flick from Traffic Engineering has been in contact and he was informed me that they have tasked a consultant from JMP to survey this area and our requests. Sara Bursheim from JMP is the engineer assigned to these requests from JMP. I have not had the pleasure of speaking with her yet.

Trout Creek Bridge Request

We would like to thank Mr. Campbell for not only coming out but for also for helping to remove the concrete in the gutter north of Trout Creek Bridge 🙂

As we continue to make progress and are provided updates, I will add to this post or create a new one. It is never too late to join our efforts. We need a variety of people to help out. Whether its writing a letter or attending a meeting to represent our area, your help is vital! Please feel free to join us.

Thank you for reading!

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