The free app allows Apple Watch owners to upload a photo of a loved one. When the watch detects that its wearer is in a moving vehicle, it pops up that photo with a reminder to drive safely.
The DrivePromise app is designed to put the brakes on texting while driving.
"Triggering a powerful emotional motivator seems like an excellent way to snap people out of a dangerous and thoughtless habit," said Avi Steinlauf, CEO of Edmunds.com. "Our time and resources are well spent if we manage to shift people's behavior and help make the road safer for all."
The debut of the DrivePromise app coincides with a major federal initiative to fight distracted driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calls distracted driving "a dangerous epidemic on America's roadways."
In 2013, 3,154 were killed in distracted-driving crashes, according to the most recent federal statistics.
Since 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation has held two national distracted-driving summits, banned texting and cell phone use for commercial drivers, encouraged states to adopt tough laws, and launched several campaigns to raise public awareness about the issue.
The app was inspired by a conversation with Dan Ariely, acclaimed behavioral economist at Duke University, TED speaker and author of The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality and a Q&A column for The Wall Street Journal.
Talking with Edmunds, Ariely recalled an idea intended to keep parents focused on the road when behind the wheel: "Our idea was to get your kids to record a message for you and to send it to you as a ring tone when you're getting into an area that is more dangerous in terms of driving. We can know which areas are more likely to have accidents at which time of the day and so on. And just before you get there, you could get a ring tone from your kids saying, 'Looking forward to seeing you.'"
Every Apple Watch owner is encouraged to download the DrivePromise app.
All drivers are urged to use the same psychological technique to keep themselves focused behind the wheel, either by placing a photo of a loved one in a visible but non-obstructive location in their car or simply by thinking of their families whenever they begin to drift into distraction.
The Apple Watch is the newest and first wearable device from Apple. It extends the consumer electronics giant's ecosystem and dominance in mobile devices and services.
Edmunds says: A personal and simple way to stop a dangerous habit and save lives.