This Philly Driving App Wants to Save Lives — and Earn You Shake Shack
This App Saves Lives, designed by two local entrepreneurs, offers users rewards to cut down on their distracted driving.
Ryan Frankel remembers this about the bicycling accident that nearly killed him in 2015: The person behind the steering wheel of the red light-running oncoming car was staring down at his phone screen.
Thankfully, Frankel avoided a direct collision with the vehicle. But to do so, he had to brake so hard that he flipped over his handlebars, fracturing his head and elbow. He spent six months recovering in physical therapy. And ever since, he has “wanted to do something” about the pervasive problem of distracted driving.
According to the CDC, distracted driving claims more than 3,000 lives a year. That averages out to about nine deaths per day.
“It’s crazy,” said Frankel, a tech entrepreneur who graduated from Haverford College and earned his MBA from Penn’s Wharton. “It’s just this completely senseless habit that results in serious injuries and loss of life.”
Now, Frankel and his business partner, Nate Wagner, are hoping to tackle the issue through an app called This App Saves Lives. Through the app, they’ll partner with local schools and businesses to incentivize drivers to keep their eyes on the road.
TASL, which Frankel anticipates will become available to iPhone users sometime next week, has a relatively simple premise: The app will be able to run in the background of your phone, Frankel said, and is designed to switch into a tracking mode when users begin traveling at or over 7 miles per hour. During that time, TASL will be able to detect when users are controlling their phones to, say, send a text message. For every minute users drive without any distractions, they’ll earn one TASL point. But any time you use your phone while driving — for anything other than music-streaming, navigation or a hands-free call — you’ll see points deducted.
To encourage drivers to minimize distractions, the app will allow users to redeem those points at various local businesses. Frankel said that so far, he’s partnered with brands like Shake Shack, Famous 4th Street Cookies, the Di Bruno Bros., Sheetz, Little Baby’s Ice Cream and more to offer deals to safe drivers.
“I’ve spent a lot of my time and my entire career talking to brands and companies that are looking for new ways to acquire new customers,” Frankel said. “It’s sort of like a win-win situation. We can create a community of safe drivers that benefits drivers and pedestrians and everyone in between, as well as the brands … [which] get to champion their commitment to public safety but also try out this very innovative way to bring new foot traffic to the stores.”
Frankel is known for co-founding and later selling a language translation app called VerbalizeIt (for which he appeared on season four of Shark Tank) and previously worked as a private equity investor for Goldman Sachs. Wagner, a teacher at Haverford Middle School, helped to recruit more than 70 schools in the Greater Philadelphia area (like Haverford, Friends Central, Wissahickon High School and more) to partner with the app.
Drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distracted-related driving fatalities, according to the CDC. Through TASL, Frankel and Wagner are working with schools to encourage students to drive distraction-free, including through fun rewards like “dunk the principal in a swimming pool if all the students earn a certain number of safe driving points,” Frankel said.
The duo launched an IndieGoGo campaign on Tuesday morning to raise funds for the app. They’re hoping to accumulate $20,000 over the next month and a half. Donors who support the app now can receive awards like branded gear, customized food rewards, and professional cycling jerseys.
For now, TASL while be based solely in the Philly area. But Frankel and Wagner plan to expand the app across the country in the future, hopefully saving lives wherever they take it.
“[TASL] is born and built in Philadelphia,” Frankel said. “Our goal is to really nail the Philadelphia landscape, and then moved from the next city to the next city.”