The course of Jim Howell’s life has changed because of a hyphen. A hyphenated website address, specifically. He has been involved with LifeSaverApp.com for years, and LifeSaver-App.com more recently. Yes, these web words are going to get confusing, so the bottom line is you’ll want both of them, ‘kay?
LifeSaverApp came first. It was developed by Marilyn Gard, the owner of a small IT company in Sedona, Arizona. She has created several safety-related applications over the years. LifeSaverApp is a digital version of your personal medical records, so that in the case of an emergency, a first responder would have access, by way of a QR code, to any allergies or medical conditions. The app then helps communicate and coordinate your care with any type of health care professional you would see.
Howell discovered the LifeSaverApp about eight or nine years ago. “I called her when I heard about it. She didn’t have a marketing department,” he said of the developer. “She made me her marketing manager.”
Then in 2013, a similar website showed up, LifeSaver-app.com. The hyphenated version is for a solution that solves distracted driving. The downloaded app recognizes GPS and is activated when a car goes into motion, blocking the phone screen and notifications. In Los Altos, California, tech entrepreneurs Ted Chen and Mike Demele created the LifeSaver app. With experience at companies like Yahoo and Oracle, Chen and Demele also had kids who were going to be driving soon. And those kids had phones. And those kids with phones who would be behind the wheel also had parents who were getting a little nervous. So, technology to the rescue.
Chen and Demele were longtime friends who decided to take their shared tech experience and form their own company, Life Apps, and make a difference in the world. “In Silicon Valley you hear that all the time: ‘Can you make a difference?’ That’s one of the things we set out to do,” Chen said. “We wanted to see if we could make a difference in driving safety, particularly distracted driving. Historically, this problem has only been around since smartphones became ubiquitous.”
The iPhone was released on June 29, 2007; just a decade ago. “So in 10 short years this thing that has never been a problem before has become a huge social epidemic,” Chen said.
Meanwhile, back in Central Kentucky, Jim Howell was fascinated with the California app. Technology solving a problem that was inadvertently created by technology? He wanted in. “When I heard about this, I called the company,” he said. “I called to help them. They hired me for no money.”
Now Howell is reaching out to as many associations as he can, for broadcasters, press, realtors and sheriffs, as well as school boards and other large organizations. “Our bold goal is to reduce highway deaths due to texting and driving by 50 percent in the next five years,” he said. “I want Kentucky to be the leader in reducing highway deaths in the nation.”
Calling Jessamine County home, Howell is originally from Horse Branch, Kentucky, a community near Beaver Dam in Western Kentucky. He served in the U.S. Army in the early 1960s as a helicopter crew chief in Korea. He’s been a soldier, policeman, an insurance claims adjuster and has worked for General Motors and Aon Corporation. An entrepreneur since 1986, he founded an automotive staffing company called AutoPersonnel, which is still running today. Howell is the one who started certifying used cars, something every car dealer in the country now does. “I’ve had a really varied career but enjoyed every bit of it,” he said.
While the consumer solution is still an important component of LifeSaver-app.com, the business side is also compelling for Howell’s cross-country buddies who have developed a digital portal for fleet owners. Fleet vehicles are those company vans you see on the road every day for plumbing, electrical, service repair—those types of vehicles, not the 18-wheelers.
“On the enterprise side, every single fleet driver is in the position where the fleet manager or business owner cares deeply about the driver’s safety, and has the leverage and control to keep them accountable,” Chen said.
Safety is the most important factor on the road, no matter who is behind the wheel or what kind of wheel it is. Jim Howell, twice-retired but still out there determined to contribute to society, is spreading the word about road safety and stopping distracted driving.
“I have chosen to save lives more than I’ve chosen to make money,” he said. “To me, success is saving lives.”