Fremont High School Juniors Develop Safe Driving App


Shreya Shah (left) and Aditi Gopalan (right), both Indian American juniors at American High School in Fremont, Calif., have developed an app, TextLock, which blocks people from looking at their phones while driving.
(photo courtesy of Shreya Shah)

Fremont, Calif. – Two young Indian American teens, both juniors at American High School in Fremont, Calif., realized the impact of texting while driving after a friend got into a major car accident.

Their friend had looked down for just a moment to look at an incoming text. During the momentary lapse, his car crashed into another, and was completely totaled. The young man suffered two broken ribs and spent two months recovering from the incident.

The accident sparked an epiphany for Shreya Shah and Aditi Gopalan, two budding entrepreneurs involved in American High School’s DECA program. The Indian American duo developed an app, TextLock, which automatically locks up a phone from receiving or sending text messages and using other applications – such as Facebook and Instagram – once the driver is in the car.

A quarter-sized sensor placed on the driver’s seat connects with the TextLock app on a mobile Smartphone to disarm most of its functionality.

Users can still make and receive calls via a Bluetooth device.

Shah and Gopalan have applied for a patent for TextLock, and will showcase the app at DECA’s International Career Development Conference, which begins April 24 in Orlando, Florida. The app took third place honors in the California state competition; Shah and Gopalan were the only women among the top 10 teams.

The five-day international conference will bring together 70,000 students from across the globe to share ideas and solutions for the world’s most-pressing crises.

“Lots of kids just give up and say ‘only adults can do that,’ but age is just a number,” Shah toldIndia-West. The ebullient teen said she was excited about participating in the upcoming conference. “The business world is dominated by men; we want to increase diversity,” she said.

Texting while driving is now the leading cause of death among teenagers; about 3,000 teens die each year in texting-related accidents. The dangerous activity has surpassed drunk driving: 2,700 teens die each year from alcohol- and automobile-related incidents, reports the New York-based Cohen Children’s Medical Center. A Virginia Tech university study found that almost half of the teens surveyed admitted to using social media while driving, including posting photos and watching videos.

A Car and Driver magazine study reported that a scant five seconds of distraction while driving can cause a major collision. The study noted that reading a text worsened reaction times by 600 percent; reading a text is more dangerous than writing a text, noted the magazine.

Gopalan told India-West she got her license six months ago and – despite the car accident involving her friend – she is tempted to look down when her phone buzzes, signaling a notification for an incoming text or activity on social media. “In that five seconds of looking down, I’ve travelled the length of a football field.”

Gopalan said her parents, aunts and uncles all occasionally use their cell phones while driving, and she has accepted rides from friends who text and drive.

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