Should everyone have Groove?
When we are asked about our company and product by parents, it takes only a few minutes for them to fully comprehend that Groove is simply a way to notify your mobile phone carrier when a family member is driving so that the carrier can limit distractions at the network level during a drive.
At that point, there is usually an “aha” moment which is often followed by a “Everyone should be using this!” statement.
Of course we agree, and so have others that are committed to having an effective solution available to all mobile phone subscribers. To that point, in the past couple years we’ve been contacted by representatives of state legislatures in New York, Colorado, and California asking how they can help make this technology available to their constituents.
As a result of this prompting, last year we engaged with legislators to develop a bill for the Colorado legislature that was hard to argue against: that every carrier should make available network-level distracted driving prevention technologies to their customers who want the service and are willing to pay a fair price for it. The intention of the bill was not to mandate that drivers must use this technology, but simply that it should be made available to any subscriber that wants it, similar to the 1960s when seat-belts were first coming to be. Legislation ensured that automakers made seat-belts available as an option to those customers who wanted them.
As Katasi is primarily a team of entrepreneurs and technologists, it was an eye-opening experience to see the legislative process from the inside as the bill was developed and forwarded. It quickly gained momentum with advocates such as the Automobile Association of America, Sentry Insurance, National Insurance, Candace Lightner (the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and the We Save Lives and Colorado Drive Safe coalitions joining us in the campaign.
We put substantial work into structuring the bill NOT to mandate the technology for drivers, but simply to make sure it was available to subscribers, allowing that market forces could drive the development of network-level distracted driving prevention technologies.
After writing the bill in partnership with the legislators, it was introduced to the legislature by our sponsor and cosponsor. The legislative process is such that a bill is first introduced to a House committee for discussion and vote to determine if it should be brought to the House for discussion and vote. If the committee votes to forward to the House, the House discusses and votes. If the bill passes the House, then it is brought to the Senate committee for discussion and vote. If that passes, then it is brought to the Senate floor for discussion and vote. Finally, if that passes, then the bill becomes law.
We came very close to having the bill become law on our first try!
In February the process began in earnest. We were successful in the House committee, with votes mostly along party lines (Democrats for, Republicans against), with some Republicans voting “for”. We were then successful with passage on the House floor, again, with the vote in general along party lines, but with some Republicans voting “for”.
When we reached the Senate committee, we came close to prevailing, with a close vote along party lines, missing approval by one vote. The Senate did not get an opportunity to vote on the bill.
Although we were not successful this year in passing the bill, the level of advocacy that developed was astonishing, with multiple organizations committing to help make network-level distracted driving prevention technology available to any mobile phone subscriber, agreeing that voluntary app-based solutions fall far short of the sure, effective solution that a network-level solution can provide.
With it likely that Colorado will have both a democratic House and Senate next session, we are looking forward to building on the lessons learned from the experience, re-introduce a similar bill next year, succeed in it becoming law, and taking an important step to make sure that everyone has access to this important technology.