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- Because of our tech-heavy lifestyles, distracted driving continues to be a major problem, and it’s one I struggled with for years.
- I used to have an obsessive need to check my phone all the time, even while driving, but I curbed my phone use in the car with the help of two affordable tech accessories: a Qi phone mount ($30), and an Alexa-enabled car charger ($59).
- The mount holds my phone in place on my dashboard or windshield so I can easily look over for directions. It also has a Qi charger built into it that wirelessly charges my phone.
- And I’ve found that my Alexa-enabled car charger is a lot more convenient than Siri since Alexa is generally more reliable and gives me better directions using Google Maps, which also pop up on my phone’s screen.
I started driving at the dawn of the smartphone era, and despite repeated warnings and genuinely knowing better, I was a distracted driver for a long time.
Nearly 10 years later, this is still a major problem: AAA reported 88% of people it surveyed think distracted driving is on the rise; by comparison, only 43% felt the same way about drunk driving. The issue is so bad that Apple introduced a “do not disturb while driving” feature in the last major version of iOS, which automatically silences all notifications when an iPhone senses it’s moving quickly.
Technology was absolutely to blame for my issue with distracted driving, but ironically enough, tech also helped me severly curb it.
Here’s how I kicked the habit:
Keeping my hands off my phone
For the first few years of having my licence, I kept my phone in one of two places: my car’s cup holder, or my thigh. The cup holder was more stable, but it kept my phone at a weird angle; my thigh made my phone’s screen easier to glance at, but prone to moving around — both were incredibly stupid.
I bought my first car mount seven years ago, and it’s still one of the best tech purchases I’ve ever made. Instead of having to look down at my phone’s screen, I could position the mount in such a way that my eyes are always on the road. But the mount served another important purpose; it actually got me out of the habit of touching my phone as much.
When my phone was on my thigh, or in my cup holder, it was easy to grab it. Once it was in my hand, I was tempted to turn on its screen to look at it. I pick up my phone dozens of times a day, many times purely out of habit, but I don’t really have that urge when it’s in a mount, because it’s being held for me.
I’ve tried many car mounts over the years — it was necessary to upgrade once plus-sized phones started getting released — but I’ve recently settled on one from TaoTronics. It’s a strong, suction-cup-style phone mount that I can place on my dashboard or windshield. The mount has two “arms” that extend to support phones up to 3.5″ wide, and contract around the sides of your phone to keep it in place.
There are many great phone mounts on the market today, but what sets this one apart is that it has a wireless Qi charger built into its back plate.
So now, instead of plugging my phone in when I get into the car, I just set it into the mount and watch the battery tick up. It’s only a 5W charger (modern iPhones can charge at a 7.5W rate, and some Android phones support a 10W rate), which doesn’t charge my phone as quickly as a cable, but I really love the convenience.
Keeping my eyes off my phone’s screen
I have found Apple’s new “do not disturb” mode helpful, and rely on Siri as much as possible for those times when I have a question, need directions, or want to pick a song, but therein lies the problem.
I’d request for Siri to do something, then immediately check the screen to make sure my phone heard me correctly. If it didn’t, I’d make my request again, using different words, switching up my pronunciation, or giving up and making a new request. Believe me, few things are as frustrating as asking to hear the song “Something” by The Beatles and being misinterpreted to mean any of the band’s tracks.
I needed a new smart assistant in my car, but I had no intention of switching over to Android just for the Google Assistant. That’s where the Roav VIVA comes in.
The Roav VIVA isn’t your average car charger; this one has two USB ports and comes with Amazon Alexa, which opens up a lot of possibilities.
Instead of asking Siri for directions if the location I’m heading toward has changed, I ask Alexa and they pop up on my phone’s screen; I can even choose between Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze as my navigation app of choice. That’s especially helpful because Siri only works with Apple Maps and I prefer Google Maps.
Siri also only works with Apple Music, which is the primary reason I subscribe to that service over Spotify. But the VIVA can play music from Amazon’s library of free music for Prime members, or its Prime Music Unlimited service, whose library is comparable to Apple Music’s and is $2 cheaper for Prime members. I haven’t canceled my Apple Music subscription, but Amazon does have a higher success rate of understanding my music requests if they’re not entirely straightforward.
The big benefit to all of this is that my interactions with the Roav VIVA are all verbal. I ask it a question, and don’t feel compelled to look at my phone’s screen, because the answer is going to come from my speakers. And because I rarely have to repeat myself, I don’t have to start thinking up alternate phrasings to my initial request, or an entirely new one.
I’m still not a perfect driver, but it’s been surprisingly easy to change the way I interact with tech in the car by using these two car accessories. My eyes stay on the road and my hands stay on the wheel, and I’ve trained myself to stop worrying about checking my texts every five minutes, or whenever I hear my phone buzz.
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