Saving lives on the road

A new app is coming to Huntsville in an effort to put an end to the dangers of distracted driving — making our streets a safer place while offering desirable incentives.

“Any time you pull up to a red light and just take a look around, everybody’s on their phone when they’re driving,” said Jonathan Buckner, the Safe 2 Save advocate for Sam Houston State University. “It’s just so distracting, I’ve heard too many horror stories about people getting in serious accidents or killed because someone preferred to send a text instead of waiting five minutes until they got home to send it.”

Safe 2 Save, originally born out of College Station in 2016, was created by mother, wife and now CEO Marci Corry in response to the high number of tragedies involving distracted driving in the college town.

The app – which collects a driver’s miles driven without using a cellphone and transfers those miles to points that can be redeemed for discounts to local and online businesses – now garners over 360,000 users nationwide as of last week, and has slowly expanded to surrounding areas, now reaching the city of Huntsville.

“We have always looked at cities that have universities, for one, also the fact that there are quite a few people in College Station who commute to Huntsville was another determining factor, and people that come from Huntsville to (College Station),” Safe 2 Save media and governmental relations manager Suzanne Badger said, adding that I-45 and the city’s proximity to Houston played another determining factor.

Stories from local community members and their experiences with distracted driving influenced the decision as well, most notably the story of Deanna Irwin, mother to one of four victims in last April’s Bastrop county car crash.

Irwin’s daughter Peyton had been traveling with three friends and their mother to watch the Huntsville High School Drill Team perform at Nationals in San Antonio when the vehicle was struck by another driver. It is suspected that the striking driver was distracted by a cell phone and failed to control their speed, resulting in the deadly crash.

In Houston, the app has partnered with Memorial Hermann Hospital which is a Level 1 Trauma Center with life flight, and has seen the damages that distracted driving can cause, not only to victims, but to the hospitals themselves.

“The mission of Safe 2 Save pairs so well with (the hospital) because there’s a lot of money that goes into having to treat people who have been effected by distracted driving crashes,” Badger said.

In 2017, the cost of medical care and productivity losses associated with occupant injuries and deaths from vehicle crashes nationwide exceeded $75 billion, according to the CDC.

In 2018, 95,572 vehicle crashes in Texas, or 18% of the 540,561 total motor vehicle crashes on Texas roadways, were caused by distracted driving, according to TxDot. The total number of distracted driving crashes resulted in 394 deaths and 2,340 serious injuries that year.

Texas law has attempted to cut down on distracted driving by prohibiting texting, emailing or instant messaging while driving as of September 2017, however many continue to do so.

Safe 2 Save adds an additional incentive to quit the habit, partnering with local businesses in select cities and online retailers to offer rewards for points derived from driving distraction free.

“When we launched online in December, it was such a great thing, because now you can be anywhere within the US and you can use your points to go online and get discounts for most of the things online that you buy every day like Chewy dogwood,” Badger said.

The app has currently partnered locally with Wiesner Chevrolet of Huntsville, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Double Dave’s offering free food items and dollars-off incentives.

Safe 2 Save is looking for more local businesses to partner with, for inquiries visit https://safe2save.org/businesses/