Since California implemented its hands-free cell phone law in 2009, traffic deaths decreased an average of 12% a year. Nonetheless, when Bay Area law enforcement agencies and the California Highway Patrol ran a campaign targeted at distracted and texting drivers this August, they issued 1,108 tickets.

In San Francisco, our streets can be dangerous places for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. And texting while driving, even some Muni operators do it, only makes them more dangerous.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, distracted drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 out of every six seconds. At 55 MPH, that means a texting driver travels the full length of a football field, without looking at the road. Now a new app can help cut down on texting while driving tickets, as well as make driving safer for everyone on the roads.

A Smartphone App that Is Smart Enough to Know When you Need It

Hi!Way is a new free Android app developed for safety-conscious driving (download the app here). While there are already numerous apps that offer voice activated controls, Hi!Way is unique in that the app knows when it is needed, by using your phone’s GPS to determine when you are driving. Users set their typical driving conditions, and the app then gauges whether users are stationary for a prolonged period of time because they’re stuck in crazy Bay Bridge traffic, or if they’re no longer driving (and then the app will turn itself off). If the app detects that your driving speed exceeds 5mph, it will read your text messages and e-mails. You don’t need to remember to turn the app on – you can jump in your car and just start driving.

If a message comes through you can then reply by voice, and the app will transcribe your message. View a slideshow of how the technology works here.

Technology Can Help Keep San Francisco Streets Safer

Reset knows technology can be used to make us safer, from earthquake detection apps, to neighborhood crime maps – the Hi!Way app is just another way technology is helping to make us safer. Last year, 800 pedestrians were hit by cars in San Francisco, and according to a 2008 San Francisco Bicycle Coalition survey, 27% of coalition members reported they had been in a collision with a car within the last two years. Certainly San Francisco street designs contribute to these accidents; but distracted driving is also to blame. Apps like Hi!Way can help cut down on distracted driving, and maybe accidents as well.