The rain held off for most of yesterday's Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, but around the time that the police department made its traditional midnight charge down Bourbon Street to declare the holiday over, storm clouds began rolling in. This morning, folks across the area awoke to a very soggy, somber Lent -- which is probably how it should be.
No matter what faith you follow -- if you follow one at all -- Lent is a great time to try something new: it's only 40 days long, and oftentimes, you've got a support group of friends and family who are struggling along with you. Thanks to smartphones and tablet computers, there are a host of apps available to lend a hand, too (including apps for Lent itself).
Traditionally, Lent has been a season to give up meat, but it also provides a perfect opportunity to change your driving habits. Here are a few you might want to try, and some apps to help you along the way.
DRINKING AND DRIVING
Studies have shown that drinking alcohol in moderation can be good for your heart. Unfortunately, many folks have trouble drinking in moderation, and even more unfortunately, they often feel emboldened to slide behind the wheel when they've crossed the sobriety line. We're not here to stage interventions, but if you enjoy getting crunked on a regular basis, Lent offers a chance to put the brakes on things before your habits land you in the drunk tank. There are a number of apps on the market that claim to help drinkers figure out their level of intoxication. One of the newest is Lone Wolf's DUI kNOw! for Android, which uses a one-two slap of speech recognition (to determine if you're slurring) and sobriety tests (like counting backward) to figure out if you're too messed up to motor.
SMOKING AND DRIVING
Unlike drinking, we know of ZERO studies showing that smoking is good for you in the long term. "But what's smoking got to do with driving?", you ask. Well, smoking, just like texting, eating, and talking on the phone, can be a major distraction for drivers -- doubly so if you manage to drop a lit cigarette in your lap. Smoking while driving also diminishes the resale value of your car, and why would you want to do that? There are dozens of anti-smoking apps on the market for nearly every smartphone platform, including the popular Quitter and LiveStrong.com's My Quit Coach. One of the newer applications to cross our radar has been the Quit Smoking Counter, which helps keep tabs on the money you've saved and the days you've added to your life by not smoking. Be aware, though, that doctors are skeptical of many smoking-cessation apps, so you should probably check with your own physician to gauge her opinion of the app you like best.
TEXTING AND DRIVING
We've covered the issue of texting and driving pretty thoroughly at SocialCarNews and elsewhere -- in fact, Bengt Halvorson hit it again on Monday at TheCarConnection. Of the many apps we've seen so far, our fave is probably DriveSave.ly: it's easy to use, it earned Mashable's seal of approval, and unlike many similar apps, it's totally free.
No matter where you stand in the climate debate -- with Al Gore, James Inhofe, or somewhere in-between -- it's hard to argue that going green is a bad thing. We all know that gas prices are on the rise, and even though they'll likely slip a bit once the current Mid-East turmoil cools, few analysts think they'll fall far. You may not be able to afford one of the first-gen EVs like the Nissan Leaf or a schmancy hybrid like the Chevy Volt, but there's no reason you can't start driving smarter today. Apps like GreenMeter or EcoGyzer can help wring the most efficiency out of the most stubborn car, truck, or SUV.
If you're employed by a large company or attend a big school, chances are pretty good that one of your neighbors is heading to work or class when you are. Why not spend 40 days getting to know them and splitting gas money? You might make some new friends, and at the very least, you'll be saving dough. Zimride is still the carpooling app of record, but others like Avego are making big strides -- and beta apps from outfits like Daimler are gaining ground, too. Worst-case scenario: you'll have seen how the HOV set lives.