At DITRW, we get many solicitation requests every month for products and services related to driving safety, and very rarely do they make the cut since they’re often not very effective. However, when Nate Wagner contacted me about his product late last year, This App Saves Lives (TASL), I did a double-take, because it uses the power of positive reinforcement to nudge us into changing our habits of using our smartphones while we’re driving. I’m really excited to share with you his story and the app that can literally save a life.
Nate Wagner is the cofounder (along with Ryan Frankel) and COO of TASL. He is a dedicated educator and an entrepreneur at heart, having founded several businesses, including Smooth Moving Pros, one of Philadelphia’s premier household goods moving companies, which was acquired in 2018. Nate is also a student mentor, multisport coach, community leader, and aspiring handyman who resides in King of Prussia, PA, with his wife and newborn daughter.
ML: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get interested in road safety? Most people, for instance, don’t think when they’re a child, “When I grow up, I want to be a distracted driving advocate.”
NW: I’ve been an educator for the past 10 years in suburban Philadelphia. In addition to teaching, I’m an entrepreneur at heart. What drives me as an entrepreneur is solving complex problems. With This App Saves Lives, we are trying to get people to change their behavior behind the wheel. What got me interested in road safety was my partner, Ryan Frankel, who was personally impacted by a distracted driver. Ryan was severely injured when a distracted driver ran a red light while he was out biking, causing him to swerve and flip over his handlebars. He suffered multiple body fractures and the driver drove off, probably not even knowing what had transpired. While Ryan was recovering in the hospital, he came up with the idea behind This App Saves Lives. About a year later, Ryan pitched the idea to me and I thought it would have the most impact with our youngest drivers, since unfortunately drivers under the age of 20 are involved in the highest number of distracted driving road fatalities.
ML: What is TASL and how does it work? Has it officially launched yet?
NW: Yes, we launched on December 13, 2019. This App Saves Lives (TASL) is a free iOS mobile app that rewards drivers who choose not to use their smartphones while driving. Rewards are provided by local and national brands who care about public safety and who are excited about an innovative new medium for customer acquisition. Drivers earn “TASL Points” for time spent driving without using their phones. These points are redeemable for rewards from our brand partners both online or in-store. We gamify the experience with driver rankings, badges, and competitions to make our platform addictive and exciting.
Here’s how it works: TASL detects when drivers are traveling faster than 10 mph and for each minute they do not use their phone, they will earn 1 safe driving point (a TASL point). If drivers unlock their phones and use them while driving, they’ll lose 5 TASL points for each distraction.
ML: What kind of response and reception has it gotten? Both from users and partnering companies?
NW: Since our launch, we have received an overwhelmingly positive response. In a little over two months, we’ve had north of 10,000 downloads. Recently the New York Times published an article on This App Saves Lives, which has further accelerated our growth and reach. We’ve partnered with some amazing organizations, including Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and will be hosting a national safe driving campaign for Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April. We’ll be recognizing the safest student drivers as well as the safest schools across the country.
ML: How do you keep users from “gaming the app”?
There really isn’t any way a user can “game the app.” The only time someone can earn points without being in a car is if they’re riding on a bus or a train and not engaging with their phone. The same is true for passengers. They can earn points if they’re not using their phone while traveling between 10 and 80 mph. In a future release, we will have a “passenger unlock” where a user can select that they’re a passenger and they’ll neither gain or lose points.
ML: How do you get around the difficulty of drivers needing to input navigation directions, wanting to skip streaming music tracks, and accessing other one-button push inputs?
We are really trying to change driver behaviors completely and remove the distraction of their phone in a car. We encourage users to connect their phones to Bluetooth and set up their navigation and music prior to driving.
ML: Can anyone use it anywhere, or has it not yet reached all parts of the country?
NW: Absolutely anyone in the US can use it! Many of our brand partners with physical stores are located in the greater Philadelphia region, but several of our rewards from brand partners, including Urban Outfitters and Picky Bars, are available on their websites. We’re aggressively expanding our brand partners outside of Philadelphia and plan to have several physical brand partners nationwide within a year.
ML: What I love about this product is its theme of positive reinforcement, not another lecturing, punitive “don’t do this or that.” Can you speak to that?
We call our method the “carrot, not the stick” approach. Our method is based on behavioral psychology that shows you’ll be more successful at changing people’s behavior with positive reinforcement rather than punishing bad behavior. Additionally, as an educator, I get so much more out of my students through positive encouragement, rather than focusing on the negative behaviors.
ML: Tell me about some upcoming plans you have for TASL. You had mentioned school competitions and the opportunity for users to sponsor their own rewards.
NW: We have several employer- and school-based competitions currently running, whereby a company or school will sponsor additional rewards in addition to those offered in our app. For example, they are offering Amazon, Target, and Visa gift cards to the safest drivers with the most TASL Points.
ML: Will there be opportunities for parents to use TASL to monitor their teens’ activity as new drivers?
NW: Absolutely! We are currently developing a “Parent Portal” where parents can log in to a web-based platform and see their child’s driving habits.
ML: What kinds of companies and organizations is TASL seeking or looking to partner with?
NW: Brands: Rewards are provided by local and national brands who care about public safety and who are excited about an innovative new medium for customer acquisition. We are open to almost all brands, but we are especially focused on the ones that will most excite our users to put down their phones while driving, including fast food places, restaurants, entertainment, and auto-industry-specific entities (oil changes, repairs, etc.), to name a few.
Companies: Our employer-based competitions are open to any company that wants to demonstrate that they care about employee safety long before and after they drive to work. Companies can host fun, engaging corporate challenges with rewards offered to the highest earners of TASL Points. The challenges can be customized and rewards can be monetary, donations to charities, or company-specific (ice bucket challenge the CEO, anyone?!).
Organizations: We’re focusing on organizations who want to promote road safety and help us put an end to distracted driving.
ML: How can companies and individuals find out more about TASL and contact you?
NW: To download our app, here is our direct link: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/this-app-saves-lives/id1487120119?ls=1
Contact Information: Ryan Frankel, firstname.lastname@example.org