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52apps targets teens’ distracted driving

Staff Report
Published Nov. 14, 2012

Columbia-based software developer 52apps is releasing a new smartphone application that provides alerts to parents when teens drive while texting or talking on cellphones.

The release of the Canary app, which will work on iPhones and Android phones, comes as the National Transportation Safety Board adds distracted driving to its 2013 target list for dangerous driving behavior.

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This illustration shows how the Canary smartphone application provides alerts to parents when teens drive dangerously. (Illustrations/52apps)
“A teen using a cellphone in a moving car is like a teen carrying a loaded gun. Stopping teens from risking their own and others’ lives takes a lot more than pledges or even legislation. This is the app parents have been waiting for,” said Steve Leight, CEO of 52apps.

William Kirkland, an investor in 52apps and director of the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator, said Canary is the first smartphone app that approaches the distracted driving problem by enabling parents to monitor teens’ smartphone use in real time.

Kirkland said fleet management “is an obvious next step for us. But distracted driving among teens is such a problem that we want to focus on that behavior first.”

The Canary app sends an alert to parents when their teens are engaging in dangerous activities, such as texting while driving, moving at unsafe speeds, traveling outside an area parents have defined as safe or violating curfew.

Parents can receive messages via the app installed on their own phones and by email, with complete details of their teens’ activities — including a list of call volumes, locations and driving speeds — which Canary logs for later review.

In 2010, 3,092 people died in the United States in crashes involving distracted driving, the company said, citing national driving statistics. The National Safety Council estimates at least 24% of crashes in 2010 involved drivers talking or texting on cellphones.

Canary provides alerts to parents when teens:

  • Activate their smartphones while traveling faster than 12 mph.
  • Text while traveling faster than 12 mph.
  • Talk on the phone while traveling faster than 12 mph.
  • Exceed speed limits.

Canary also sends alerts when teens travel into an area parents have set as restricted, or outside an area parents have defined as safe; it notifies parents if a teen violates a parent-established curfew; the program also logs the date, time and location when the above actions occur.

Parents are notified if a teen disables Canary. Canary doesn’t block use of the phone; parents are able to contact their teens via Canary-protected phones at any time.

The app can be downloaded at The price includes installation on an unlimited number of phones, the company said.