Au Pair Advice: New App to Manage Texting While Driving

by cv harquail on April 14, 2010

Local mom and blogger Kristen Kemp wrote a post so important that I’m borrowing heavily from it to share with you all. It’s all about:

Parental Control Feature to Stop Texting While Driving

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that most host parents are preeetttyyy concerned about safe driving. Talking on a cellphone behind the wheel — or even worse  —  trying to text and drive at the same,  equals a recipe for disaster.

Lots of au pair’s “get it”. They are willing to let the call role to voicemail and leave the phone in their knapsack while they ferry our beloveds to Little Gym. But a text message? All to have to do it read it is take your eyes off the road for 30 seconds. Which is enough time for something awful to occur.

But consider this:

In 2007, AAA and Seventeen Magazine conducted a survey which revealed that nearly 50 percent of teen drivers admitted to texting while driving.

That would be one half. Now, these are American teens; our au pairs are likely more mature.

Kristen goes on to explain:

OTTER (One Touch Text Response) … is a smartphone app that has a GPS system. While a car is in motion, it fields all incoming texts you receive while driving and will automatically reply: “The OTTER user is currently driving”. Once you are ready to reply (it will deactivate approximately six minutes after your car stops moving), all texts that came in will be marked as new and you can safely reply.

You can enable it to remove the distraction for you and you can use the Parental Control Feature to stop your teen from texting while driving. Activated by a password only you know, your teen will not hear texts coming in and cannot text while his car is in motion.

OTTER is currently available for Google’s Android platform (version 1.6 or higher). OTTER for Blackberry and Windows 7 are on the way. Additionally, If you have an iPhone, OTTER plans to be available shortly. The full version (with the Parental Control Feature/GPS) is currently available for a one-time download fee of $3.99, and no recurring charges.

If you supply your au pair with a cell phone, you might consider offering her or him the phone with this app already loaded and activated.

Sure, it means that while s/he is the driver or a passenger in a moving car , your au pair can’t text… but s/he’ll live.

That’s the point.

See Also:
Want Safe Driving? Forbid your Au Pair to use the cellphone in the car. Period.
Using Your Car is a Privilege, not an Entitlement: Best practices
Why Safety Rules Matter


Hula Gal April 14, 2010 at 10:21 am

This seems like an app for a smartphone. What a lucky au pair to get a fancy phone like that! We gave our au pair a basic free phone from Sprint. But it does have bluetooth and a camera so it isn’t total crap. But I highly doubt an app like this would work on it. Anyone know more?

cv harquail April 14, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Yea, I think it is limited to smart phones….. maybe soon?

HRHM April 14, 2010 at 12:40 pm

For cheap phones, you can always disable texting completely if you find your AP can’t resist.

franzi April 14, 2010 at 1:47 pm

great app if your ap has a smart phone you provide her with!

if it is her personal phone that was not supplied for by the family and is not being paid for by the family i’m afraid that’s no option…

Darthastewart April 14, 2010 at 2:36 pm

This looks like it’s just on the ‘Droid phones. My husband just got one- we have to pay an extra $30/month just for the data plan. Needless to say, we’re not getting them for all of the phones!

michael April 14, 2010 at 7:03 pm

It seems to me that this application just gives a nod to texting while driving. Even when you look at your phone, read it and then hit “one” message, it only takes these few seconds to kill someone.

I don’t think any au pair or teen or adult should be texting nor do I think we should support these apps for texting while driving. The guy who designed the Otter says he did it because his daughter wa almost killed by a driver who was texting – how is this going to help? The guy would still be texting while driving – it would just give the victim a few seconds more to get out of the way…..

Just don’t do it!

aussiegirlaupair April 16, 2010 at 7:57 am

I think its automatic she doesn’t have to text. :)

Merrill April 21, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Aussiegirlaupair is correct. All responses are automatic with the parental control feature. The “driver” will not even know that a text has been received until after the car has come to a stop and remains there.

Anonymous April 14, 2010 at 8:04 pm

I am inclined to agree with Michael . Just don’t do it. That’s all.

Taking a computer lunch April 15, 2010 at 8:45 am

I have a friend whose daughter was in an accident and swore up and down she wasn’t texting. Her father got the log of calls, and of course she was. He took away her license and driving privileges and told her not to ask for them back for a year.

If my AP wrecked my car while on the cell it would be grounds for rematch. If my kids were in the car, she would be facing criminal charges. My AP guidelines make it clear – if you need to use your cell, pull off the road and make your call.

Personally, I’ve never figured out how one steers while on a cell, and nothing is so important it cannot wait.

Euromom April 15, 2010 at 9:39 am

In my jurisdiction, it is already illegal to “operate” a mobile phone (this includes holding it up to see texts coming in/ texting / speaking on the phone or anything that means that you need to operate the phone manually) while driving so this is not really an issue for me but I completely agree mobile phones and driving do not mix well and are a recipe for disaster.

Jenny April 15, 2010 at 11:35 am

Before they outlawed cell phone use while driving in my state, I did use the phone while driving on occasion.

To me, it’s like putting on the air conditioner, rolling down the windows, changing the radio station, checking the kids in the back seat or drinking a coffee or eating a burger. Doing anything while driving except driving is distracting.

So now that using the phone is illegal, I think we should also make eating and drinking while driving illegal, and using the phone with a bluetooth as well – since every study I’ve seen suggests it is the distraction of the conversation that increases accidents and not the act of holding the phone.

Deb Schwarz April 15, 2010 at 1:11 pm

OTTER sounds great! Don’t get me started on this topic…. Au Pair #15 is great with homework and tutoring our kids, but falls short in so many other ways. She has had TWO car accidents – that last one, a month ago, she admitted to be messing around with the GPS which caused the accident (I suspect it was texting) and hit another car – $2,000 worth of damage to our car (don’t know how much for the other car). I asked her to pick up the car from the garage (and I had to shell out $500 for the deductible) – and she left my credit card (yup – she’s very ditzy!) – the car repair guy called me to tell me that when he ran to give her the paperwork (which of course she forgot), that she had both the GPS and her cellphone on her lap as she pulled out, ready to use them while she was driving! Oh my! She only has one more week with us (end of her year – yeah!!!). One thing that we have instituted is that when she gets in the car with our kids, she is mandated to give her phone to the kids and they will answer it if it rings – and that they will tell us if she doesn’t do that. We also asked her to take off the beeper that says she has a text message because that was going off ALL the time.

Time for a change!!! The next au pair will have CLEAR cellphone rules, for sure!


HRHM May 3, 2010 at 10:43 am

Deb, if it’s your cell phone, I suggest you block texting NOW! Before she kills herself or your kids.

StephinBoston April 16, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Funny, in 4 years I’ve had au pairs, cell phone use has completely changed. First au pair used her but couldn’t care less about texts, here we are 4 years later and current au pair wouldn’t be able to live without it. I think we all have to be clear about texting and driving, we can’t assume they know. We had issues with texting and driving so it is now very clear in the rules.

mommyof2 April 16, 2010 at 9:12 pm

I have actually received a txt message from my ap when I knew she was driving with my kids! That makes me crazy!

We have provided our aps an iphone in the past. We were kidding ourselves thinking it was helpful for the ap to have the gps application (the one that speaks and they don’t have to look at it). That is the ONLY feature they don’t use! They love txt and Facebook the most!

New and improved rules coming for our next ap this summer!!!

Katie PAP April 20, 2010 at 6:47 am

Just curious if it could be deactivated? what if the au pair was in a dangerous situation ie abduction, emergency and needed to contact with a phone and didnt have the option of stopping?

Ryan April 20, 2010 at 11:21 am

Katie PAP, it looks like it only deactivates texts, not the telephone function. She could still call her host/911.

HRHM April 20, 2010 at 11:16 am

Katie – it appears that this app only stops texting, not actual calling (unless I’m misreading)

Katie PAP April 20, 2010 at 6:29 pm

okay well thats good then!

Calif Mom April 20, 2010 at 11:41 am

Heard a campaign over the weekend that was catchy.
I’m thinking about printing out a stop sign with the tagline and taping it to the dashboard as a reminder to all the drivers that the car should be a “Phone-Free Zone”.

(But when will I ever find the time to talk alone with my siblings? My commute is my private phone time, and I would sorely miss it.)

Deb, your idea of having the kids be ‘enforcers’ is interesting. Certainly, our society has no problem teaching our kids about issues of the day–nutrition, recycling, and smoking come to mind–order to put pressure on their parents to change behavior. Somehow I don’t like putting them in that position of power over the AP, but maybe if that standard were also applied to the parents when they are driving, it would work. Certainly we would all be safer!

PA HOST mom of TWO Au-Pairs May 3, 2010 at 1:11 am

No problems here with texting while driving, but I warn all host parents about the GPS first time my Ap #1 used it she totaled the car and the oncoming car. The accident was so serious that she is very lucky not to have been seriously injured.
( She wouldn’t even tell her parents about the accident)She blew right through a red light listening to the GPS and not paying attention to the roadway. Advice please???

If you had 2 au-pairs would you continue to let the one drive knowing that she totaled the car?She is never permitted to drive with my children again. I am already paying increase costs for two AP. Plus my previous AP had an accident less than 1 year ago. If I permitted AP #1 to drive it would be for leisure and to go to school. I personally feel that is way to much to dish out for leisure activities, knowing that I could never trust her to drive again with my children. I could say that the auto insurance excluded her from my policy. Any thoughts??

Darthastewart May 3, 2010 at 8:03 am

I tell the au-pair that if they have an accident, and it’s their fault, I may break the match. In this case, I would- at a minimum- remove driving privileges entirely.

do you need a second ap who can drive?

Anna May 3, 2010 at 10:21 am

I don’t think GPS is at fault here. An experienced driver can listen to the radio and drive safely – why should voice directions from the GPS be any different? I think she was just not a good driver.

If you feel it is too much for you to leave her with personal driving privileges, then don’t.

HRHM May 3, 2010 at 10:41 am

I agree with Dartha. If you can’t let her drive for work because she’s unsafe, why would you let her chance totalling your car in her free time? Save yourself the expense and drop her from your insurance.

PA HOST mom of TWO Au-Pairs May 3, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Reply to Darthastewart: Ap #2 has listed on her application that she can drive and has drove for over a year in Germany. We have yet to take her out to test her driving skills. We just bought the replace car this weekend and look forward to getting her out to drive this week to see how she does. I refuse to let them drive my car, we always had a vehicle just for the AP’s. I don’t think AP#1 realizes how serious the accident really was.

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