Courtney Scioli explains the SAFE2SAVE App on her smart phone.

Participants at the Kingwood Positive Interaction Program (PIP) June 18 were treated to a whole new way of thinking about the deadly distraction of cell phone use while driving. When Officer D.P. Von Quintus of the Houston Police Department (HPD) Kingwood Station presented his guest speaker, Courtney Scioli, everyone was expecting a grim report about how dangerous and costly the epidemic of auto crashes caused by cell phone usage has become. Instead Scioli presented an incentive program developed by a for-profit organization to get people to stay off their phones while driving. It works through the use of a smart phone app called “SAFE2SAVE.”

Scioli explained how it all started after a student lost his life from a driver texting in College Station. Marci Corry decided to make an impact on safe driving in communities throughout Texas. After researching behavior change and observing that her own young children responded well with positive reinforcement, Corry decided to encourage people in a positive way to stay off their phones while driving. She founded SAFE2SAVE in October 2016. Since that time, the program and app has gained a lot of popularity with over 130,000 users. Businesses participating in the rewards program are located in many cities throughout Texas. The company plans to expand across the entire state of Texas and go nationwide in the near future.

Scioli highlighted the current magnitude of the texting epidemic. She said, “Drivers are 23 times more likely to crash when texting and driving. It is the equivalent to having four beers before driving. Ninety-six percent of people surveyed think people talking and texting on their cell phones while driving are horrible. You should not do it and why would someone even touch their phone while driving?”

Many in the room nodded their heads in agreement. Then she said, “But the majority of people think they are the exception so they play the games of ‘I drive better than everyone else’ and ‘I’ve been driving for a long time.’ One gentleman even told me: ‘I’ve been driving since before seatbelts were a thing and I can handle my phone in the car!’”

Scioli said one national study has determined Houston is currently the number one most distracted-driving city in the nation. She pointed out laws are getting harsher, warning signs are on the highways to remind us not to text, and we all agree it’s bad. She paused and said, “Yet we still do it, even the more concerned among us do it.”

Scioli waved her own cell phone in the air and introduced the app SAFE2SAVE based on Corry’s original idea of using the principle Scioli calls “Carrot Theory” to get people off their phones. The app motivates drivers to commit to not use their phones to text or talk while driving. It senses when one is moving in a car at over 10 miles per hour and awards two points for every minute driven without using the cell phone to text or talk. While moving, the app disables the talk and text functions while keeping mapping, podcasts, music and other apps still available for use. When enough points are earned, they can be redeemed for food or merchandise at participating retailers, including online stores. The program awards 250 points for loading the app and registering. The smart phone is used for redemption at participating stores and restaurants. For example, SAFE2SAVE app users can cash in their points for free food at more than 300 McDonald’s locations across the Greater Houston area. A Big Mac hamburger takes 700 points.

The SAFE2SAVE App is available through the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store at no cost.

In other business, HPD Officer Don Vo distributed small emergency first-aid kits and a complimentary escape tool for use in accidents to enable breaking out closed windows and cutting through seatbelts if trapped in a car. He pointed out the need to store the hammer/seatbelt cutting tool alongside the driver’s seat within easy reach if trapped inside the car and restricted by a tightened seatbelt. Vo demonstrated how to forcefully cut diagonally across the seatbelt as fast as possible.

The Kingwood PIP meets the third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Kingwood Church of Christ, 2901 Woodland Hills Drive. It is open to the public and all residents are welcome. Both HPD and the Kingwood Service Association’s Public Safety Committee encourage area residents to attend and participate.

Bruce Olson
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I have been married since 1970 to Kerry, my best friend and a great Australian woman. I served and survived Vietnam in the U.S. Air Force. I fought forest fires in the summer while in college, where I earned a B.A. in economics from Oklahoma State University and an M.B.A. from the University of Texas. I retired from Continental Airlines. I have a son and two granddaughters in Kingwood, and a daughter and two grandsons on a farm near Mazabuka, Zambia. I am now enjoying life as a grandfather, Tribune correspondent and Humble ISD guest teacher when not traveling to Zambia or Australia.