In 2013 alone, 3,154 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes at the hands of distracted drivers, and another 424,000 were injured.
The main culprit? Texting while driving.
The statistics are at once staggering and inconsolable, but a freshly minted startup is hoping their new app will help lower those numbers.
"Other solutions weren't very popular or gaining traction because they were mostly quick fixes," project leader Jim Ramirez said. "TextNinja is designed to actually solve the issue of texting while driving."
Once the app is activated, any texts sent to your phone are silenced until the end of the car ride. Users can set an automatic reply — similar to an out of office — that responds to incoming messages. Not only will the other party be notified why you haven’t responded, but the response itself also acts as a reminder of the dangers of texting and driving.
Since January of 2014, drivers in Illinois have been prohibited from texting at any point while they’re behind the wheel of a car. Despite these regulations, drivers are often inclined to check their phones — even when they’re well aware of the inherent risk they’re taking.
And TextNinja has identified what they see as the root cause: FOMA, or fear of missing out.
“When that notification sounds, even people who know it is illegal and dangerous cannot resist reaching for the phone with one hand, while the other is on the wheel,” TextNinja’s website reads. “TextNinja helps to break that habit by eliminating the temptation and silencing distractions before they strike.”
The entire TextNinja process is gamified, too, with users leveling up and earning new “ninja belts” based on how much time they’ve spent behind the wheel without engaging with their phones.
In addition to the launch of their app, the startup has also kicked off a new Kickstarter campaign, which TextNinja’s Jess Goodwin said is as much a way to raise funding for the company’s supplementary bluetooth diagnostics tool as it is a strategy to spread the word about the app and raise awareness around the cause.
The app works alongside any bluetooth system, but TextNinja said it works best with their OBD bluetooth connector.
The company currently has 5 employees — three of whom give their full attention to the app — and Goodwin said they’ve been entirely bootstrapped until this point.