For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.
For Ryan Frankel, riding in traffic was a fact of life. As an Ironman-in-training in bustling Manhattan, he was used to sharing busy roads with cars, trucks, and buses on his daily training rides. He had gotten adept at maneuvering his bike through the chaotic streets of the city, avoiding car doors opening into the lane and drivers who tried to squeeze through the intersection before a light turned red. That head-on-a-swivel mentality may have saved Frankel’s life when a texting driver ran a red light. Frankel saw him coming, and was able to swerve to avoid a direct collision. But the evasive tactic came at a cost: Frankel flipped over his handlebars, fracturing his hip and elbow.
“I was angry at the driver, but anger doesn’t solve problems,” said Frankel. “It only kicks the can down the road for someone else to experience the same dangers.”
Distracted driving causes a whopping 1.5 million accidents, 500,000 injuries, and 4,000 deaths every year. “That’s more than 10 people who die every single day,” said Frankel. “I had to do something about it. The entrepreneur in me wanted to solve this increasingly pervasive and dangerous habit.”
As Frankel investigated strategies to dissuade people from looking at their phones while driving, he noticed a common theme. Almost all of them were punitive in some way, be it fines or point penalties on their license. But what if there was a better way?
“Behavioral psychology tells us that you the most out of individuals who are rewarded for positive behavior, instead of punished for bad acts,” explained Frankel. “It’s the carrot, not the stick.”
In this case, the “carrot” is delivered through This App Saves Lives, which Frankel co-founded.
Once uploaded to a phone, the iOS app lays dormant until the phone’s GPS detects it is moving at 10 miles per hour or faster. At that point, the app launches in the background and monitors phone use. For every minute a user chooses not to use their phone while driving for anything but navigation, music, and hands-free calls, the app awards one point. If the phone is used in a way that causes distraction, points are deducted. Accumulated points are redeemable for discounts from a community of brand partners, including Shake Shack, Urban Outfitters, Hubble Contacts, and dozens more.
“By replacing one addictive and dangerous behavior with the joy that comes from earning rewards and competing against others, we’re laser-focused on making distracted driving a thing of the past,” said Frankel of This App Saves Lives.
When most cyclists are hit by a car, their lives are changed forever–and not for the better. Frankel knows he’s incredibly lucky, and works hard every day to protect his fellow cyclists. “To be able to bounce out of bed every day and build a business that positively impacts society while also having fun along the way has been tremendously rewarding. The outpouring of support and advocacy from students, parents, adults and individuals from all walks of life fuels my fire and has made the experience even more enjoyable.”