The free Canary Teen Safety app could revolutionize how parents monitor their children's smart phone behavior while driving.
If only it had been invented two years ago.
Two years ago, 22-year-old Robyn Thomas, a college student on a full-ride, took a drive on the back roads of Benton County, Miss.
For just seconds, she looked down at a friend's text that blipped on her phone: "Hey, what are you doing?"
Enough time to lose control of her car and smash a tree at 60 miles an hour.
"I don't ... like ... any recollection," Thomas said slowly, struggling with permanent brain trauma. "I have zero."
"We were told she would be a vegetable for the rest of her life," said her mother Kim Thomas.
Two months in a coma. Two years of therapy. Medical care that has been nothing short of miraculous has given Robyn her life back.
But her mom said she will likely live with her parents the rest of her life. She said Robyn has the emotional capacity of a 12-year-old.
"She can't cry," Kim said. "She's laughed only twice in the last two years. We still have a long way to go."
Robyn's story inspired us to test the Canary Teen Safety app. Downloaded and synchronized between phones, the app allows parents to track everything their children are doing with their phones while driving.
We installed it on the phone of Robyn's 19-year-old sister Raven, as well as on Kim's phone. After synchronizing the phones, I drove the back roads of Benton County while Raven, sitting in the passenger seat, wore her phone out: texting, calling, Tweeting, SnapChatting, etc.
Every time, the Canary Teen Safety app chirped an alert on Mom's phone.
"It also gave me e-mail notifications," Kim said. "It does more than I thought it would do."
Like tracking the speed I was driving ... down to the exact mile per hour.
Canary even has a GPS feature that recorded everywhere Raven and I went.
"It shows the exact location," Kim said, "and you can also set it up to add a restricted area and a safe zone and also a curfew."
Parents can set the Canary Teen Safety app to "passenger mode" so children who are not driving can use their phones. They can also adjust its settings to prevent their teens from disabling the app.
"Every little thing helps," Kim said.
If you don't consider the Canary, Robyn said consider doing this with your smart phone while driving: "Just put [your] phone on silent and throw it in the back seat and not mess with it."