Two students are working to create an app that could save lives.
The goal of the app is to prevent texting while driving. It is being programmed to keep drivers accountable by allowing them to select accountability partners online. A partner receives an email if a driver’s phone detects them going over 20 mph while using their keyboard. The app uses GPS coordinates to keep track of a driver’s speed.
Julianne Thomison, mass communications sophomore, is the head creator of the app and Sriharsha Annabattula, computer science graduate, is the head developer of the app. They are working with Dr. Robert Greve, assistant dean for assessment and assurance of learning, and Dr. Noh Jin Park, visiting assistant professor of computer science.
The team received a grant from State Farm Insurance for $1000 for the app. Annabattula has made two mobile apps in the past with connections in India who assist the process with guidance and advice.
Annabattula said he took this as a personal project because it is needed to protect the lives of drivers.
“My department is very much interested in this application because it saves many lives,” he said. “If a user is driving in a car at, like, a 35 mph speed, he should not be able to text someone, even if he’s reading some kind of message.”
Thomison has been an anti-texting and driving activist since 2012, and has worked to end the issue through her own platform, titled “Thumbs Up – That Text Can Wait.” She lobbied for an Oklahoman anti-texting and driving bill in 2015, which eventually passed, and she has spoken to about 50,000 people on the subject in a variety of venues, such as the Oklahoma Driving School in Tulsa and the Devon Tower.
Thomison said she was inspired to do this when she was involved in a car wreck caused by a texting driver that could have been fatal.
“From that moment on, I realized how a simple little word or text has so much power, and I wanted to make a difference and save lives,” she said. “Now I’m working on this project to help educate moving forward.”
A prototype of the app for Android is expected to be finished by the end of the semester, and will then be made available for students. Versions for other operating systems are being considered for the future.
Thomison said this system is different from other texting and driving apps because it has a tangible way of affecting a behavioral problem.
“Ultimately, texting and driving is a behavioral change. You have to decide whether or not you are going to participate in it,” Thomison said. “So, I wanted to do just that with this new invention.”