Slow Down GPS is a smartphone navigation app that aims to stop you from speeding near schools and playgrounds. But it doesn’t just beep at you. Instead, it starts reading your turn-by-turn directions in a child’s voice when you near a child-dense hot spot.
Built by Swedish insurance company If, the free app (on Android and iOS) automatically beams disembodied children’s voices into your car whenever you get near one of the premapped danger zones. This, the thinking goes, will make drivers slow down automatically.
Irene Isaksson-Hellman, traffic researcher at If, believes that most people drive too fast because they’re distracted. In today’s cars, which are as isolated from the outside world as it is possible to be without putting curtains on the windows, this is no surprise. What’s needed is a way to distract drivers from their distraction.
Julian Treasure, chairman of UK-based consultancy The Sound Agency, says that we are conditioned to care for children. Children’s voices get a fast track to the brain, even when they’re not screaming that they want an ice cream. “When you hear a child’s voice, it will have that immediate effect of putting you in mind of looking after children,” he says.
Because it uses hand-selected data to mark out child-containing hot zones, the app currently covers only Sweden, and is unlikely to expand beyond. However, the company invites manufacturers to get in contact if they want to add similar functionality to their own devices or apps.
The app is part of a marketing campaign for If. Still, the focus on child safety is an important one. If this works, the more interesting takeaway is that people can be tricked into driving slower and better, which is something we could do with on every street.