Mother creates safety app to help Black drivers alert loved ones during traffic stops

When Charmine Davis’ son wanted to get his driver’s license, she worried about him being an African American man behind the wheel, especially if police pulled him over during a traffic stop.

With that thought, the Los Angeles-based clinical psychotherapist created and launched the smartphone app "JUST US" in August 2020.

"It’s not a surprise, or secret, that African-American males ... are more likely to be pulled over by police," Davis, 50, told FOX Television Stations Saturday. "And lots of times those interactions are really unfavorable."

Nature Human Behaviour published a study showing Black drivers in the United States were 20% more likely to be stopped by police than White drivers. The study also revealed that Black drivers were nearly twice as likely to be searched. Another study showed Black people were three times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than White people.

"I’m hoping this can make a big difference," Davis said. "This app was designed by a Black mother with Black children." 

The app’s name is a play off of the word "justice."

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The app has three features: check-in, heads-up and help that can be activated with a simple voice command in a variety of scenarios.

App users can "check-in" and notify select contacts that everything is OK, whether they’re out driving late or maybe even just at a friend’s house. The "heads-up" feature can be used if they’re pulled over by police and want to alert their contacts. And the "help" feature activates the user’s location and then notifies select contacts - as well as any other app users nearby - that help at the scene is needed. 

"I want a peaceful interaction," Davis said. 

She added that while the idea for the app was to help mothers protect their children while driving, she said anyone could use the app including college students walking around on campus. 

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The mother said she’s working on improving the app, such as adding training videos for drivers on how to remain calm during a traffic stop.

Davis launched the app in August 2020 and believes more than 4,000 people have downloaded it.

Meanwhile, nationwide protests have erupted in recent weeks over certain police encounters with Black drivers during traffic stops that have made headlines.

In December 2020, U.S. Army second lieutenant Caron Nazario was pepper-sprayed and knocked to the ground in Virginia after police pulled him over. The Army lieutenant filed a lawsuit earlier this month and an officer has now been fired.

And last weekend, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was shot and killed by a Brooklyn Center police officer in the Minneapolis suburb. Police have described the shooting of Wright as "an accidental discharge" that happened as officers were trying to arrest Wright on an outstanding warrant after stopping his car for having expired registration tags. Wright’s mother said he called her just before he was shot and told her police had pulled him over because he had air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror.

The officer involved in the shooting, Kim Potter, has resigned and has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Authorities said she thought she had grabbed her Taser.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.