Charmine Davis is one of the millions of mothers with a teenager who drives. Parents of teen drivers all experience some mix of pride in their child’s independence and anxiety over their safety behind the wheel of a car.
For Davis, however, this worry for her child’s well-being is heightened because she knows that her son, a Black young man, has a greater chance of being pulled over by police compared to white drivers. In fact, a 2020 study published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour found that Black drivers were about 20% more likely to be stopped by police, and a study conducted by Harvard researchers revealed that Black people are three times more likely to be killed during police contact compared to white people.
In light of the death of George Floyd and other incidents of racially motivated police violence, Davis, a clinical psychologist in California, created the Just Us app as a way to stay connected with her son while he was on the road.
Just Us (a play on the word “justice”) allows users to connect with up to five contacts, and there are three main features that drivers can activate by touching a button on the app or by simply using the voice-activated commands:
- Check-In: A driver can hit the green Check-In button (or they can use voice-activation to say “Hey Siri, check in”) to send out the driver’s current location to their contacts with the message that they have arrived safely.
- Heads Up: The yellow Heads Up button notifies the driver’s contacts that they are being pulled over or there is a potential situation, and it sends out their current location. The Just Us app also offers the option for a livestream to begin when the Heads Up button is activated.
- Help: Finally, the red Help button will also activate the livestream and will alert all Just Us users within a 2-mile radius that someone needs assistance.
The voice-activation capability was a key feature for Davis, as she knew that reaching for a smartphone to use the app after being pulled over by police could be dangerous.
“We know that a lot of incidents happen when folks reach for things,” Davis told “Good Morning America.” “And so the voice activation was so important to me because you’re not reaching for anything. There’s no misconceptions there.”
One of the goals of the Just Us app was to allow young Black drivers the freedom that every teenager longs for during these formative years.
“My sons are teenagers and they wanted to go out and do those things that every other teenager can do,” Davis said in an interview posted on Twitter via the Just Us app account. “I was so afraid for him driving the streets in Los Angeles.”
Our Families Should Not Live in Fear… Founder & CEO @AngelicCharmine of #thejustusapp explains why she invented the app. For the full video, visit our Facebook page and watch "Get Home Safe during the Holidays". pic.twitter.com/zTiUpavSRC
— The JUST US App (@TheJustUsApp) March 11, 2021
Candace Walker, a graduate student at the USC Iovine and Young Academy, led the development team that worked to bring Davis’s vision to life. For the team, building this app was about giving Black drivers a new resource for staying safe on the roads — and ideally a way to increase police accountability.
“That’s really the goal — to get our kids home safe, to get our loved ones home safe,” Walker said, according to the USC student newspaper The Daily Trojan. “To basically be able to live without the fear, knowing whether or not we’ll make it back home.”