It’s the fear of nearly all parents who have teen drivers on the road: teens behind the wheel with a cell phone in their hands. In fact, one in four teens admits to checking his or her phone while driving at least once a day. But what it they couldn’t without an unpleasant consequence?
That's the idea behind a device called OrigoSafe. I put it to the test with help from Maggie Vanoni, 16, and her mother, Janet.
Maggie has been driving since May and enjoys the new freedom that comes with a set of car keys. Where her keys go, her cell phone goes too.
I asked Maggie if she occasionally picks up her phone to check or send a text at red lights.
“OK, to be honest, at red lights, yes (I do),” admitted Maggie. “(But) while I'm driving, no. I know better than to do that.”
“I think she probably uses the phone more than she's telling me,” said mom Janet.
Even Janet admits to giving into temptation.
“I am guilty of playing Candy Crush at the stop lights,” Janet said with a laugh, “so I'm hoping this will deter me, as well.”
The Problem Solvers arranged for the OrigoSafe device to be installed in Maggie’s car. It’s part charger, part lock. I showed Maggie how to use it.
“Easy rule to remember: first thing in, last thing out,” I explained.
Maggie docked her phone and then turned the ignition. In the safety of a near-empty parking lot, I had Maggie break the rule and pick up her phone while driving. An alarm sounded.
“Oh, that's annoying,” said Maggie. She put the cell phone back in the holder.
Maggie parked and turned off the car. I then instructed Maggie to restart the car, as if she’s ready to go to her next destination, but the car wouldn’t move. Because Maggie undocked the phone while driving, she had to call her mom for a secret code. Once she typed in the one-time code she was allowed to drive again.
“When you come home, I’ll need to reauthorize you,” Janet explained over the phone to Maggie.
Reauthorization is meant to spark a conversation between parent and teen about breaking the ‘no texting’ rule.
If the driver leaves the phone docked in the OrigoSafe device, there's no problem.
Some parents may find the device too heavy-handed, but Janet says its use is justified.
“My ultimate concern is safety,” said Janet, “and I want her to be safe.”
The device costs $274 and should be installed by a professional at an additional cost of $125. It works with multiple family phones.
Two weeks later, I checked in with Maggie and Janet. Though tempted, Maggie hasn't broken the ‘no texting’ rule.
However, she complained about the looks of the device and her inability to use her custom cell phone case. She also doesn’t like not being able to visibly follow maps on her phone, even though the OrigoSafe device does allow here to follow voice instructions via Bluetooth.
“I can see where it could be totally safe and help people become better drivers, but I just think it's inconvenient,” said Maggie.
“For now, it stays,” insisted Janet.
- More: OrigoSafe website