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Are Your Mobile Apps Trying To Kill You?

Photo credit Last year, 5,870 people died in car crashes caused by some kind of distraction, according to a report issued in September by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Today, 19 states and the District of Columbia either have or plan to have a ban on texting while driving. Other states are jumping on the bandwagon.

Don’t they know that texting is just the tip of the iceberg? Your phone is about to distract you in so many new and exciting ways that you may never look at the road again. Take a look at the three apps I just saw at the DEMO conference this month. I think they’re out to get me.

Waze is a free app that allows you to build maps, update other drivers about traffic, police traps, and other potential gotchas. It’s available on Android, iPhone, RIM, and Windows. In all fairness to Waze, they get their dynamic traffic information in two ways. If you’re just driving around, your GPS is updating other drivers about where you are and whether you’re stuck in traffic. You can take a more active role as a traffic reporter by sending people messages about your commute. At that point Waze becomes a social-networking mobile driving application. Yikes. It’s a free app, but should be labeled “handle with care.”

TravelTrac, maker of MotoTrac, lets you build a website and update it constantly, keeping an in-depth, multimedia log of your vacation, your car pool, or any other road trip. Used wisely, MotoTrac provides the tools to build a travel site, open it to others to share, chart your route so friends and family can see you, add photos and real-time voice reports. The company’s demo reminds me of a multimedia twitterer on road trip. Great app, but take it from me, you’ve got to balance documenting your life with getting out of your car, right? There’re also versions of the product for sailors and for hikers.

Traffictalk is a voice-based traffic information sharing system. Your phone gets updates from other drivers in real time It’s meant to keep you talking, not texting. But the company demo showed that there are still plenty of buttons to press when transmitting and receiving. The new word for apps like this one and Waze are “crowdsourcing” — using the wisdom of the crowd to get your information. It may be new to us, but truckers have been doing it on CB radios forever.