It's all too often that you hear news stories reporting tragic car accidents caused by texting and driving. Unfortunately, these accidents are most common in teenaged drivers. Texting while driving causes nearly 11 teen deaths every day. That's just too high.
Since we believe smartphone technology can be used to help instead of hurt, we've looked at a few safe-driving apps available for most smartphones. If you're the parent of a teen driver, these apps might help monitor and control their cell phone use while they're behind the wheel.
AT&T DriveMode – This free app is available on the Android and iPhone marketplace. When activated, it will automatically reply to any text messages received by alerting the sender that you are currently driving. It silences alerts for texts, emails, and phone calls. It also blocks web browsing along with any outgoing calls that aren't emergencies.
You can input 5 phone numbers that are on your "Emergency List" along with 911, so it doesn't completely disable your phone. The only drawback to this helper is that you need to activate it yourself every time you drive. The driver must remember to turn it on and off during a trip.
Safe Driver for iPhone – This is another free app that monitors driving behavior through the phone's GPS and accelerometer (the device inside your phone that measures movement – like when to rotate your screen). It sends updates and alerts to parents whenever your teen driver exceeds the speed limit, brakes too hard, accelerates too quickly, and more.
The drawback to this app is that it can quickly drain battery life by using the GPS and accelerometer constantly. While the app notifies the parent only after a rule or law has been broken, it still encourages your teen to drive safely now or face their parents later. It can certainly help you keep tabs on your new driver's habits.
DriveScribe – This app, available for iPhone and Android, can monitor and alert you of unsafe driving habits in real time. That means that once the app is activated, it will call out by using the phone's speakers to alert the driver whenever they exceed the speed limit.
With each trip you make, you earn a certain number of points. By practicing safe driving habits, you can accumulate these points and spend them on gift cards through the DriveScribe website. If your teen is interested in being rewarded for their safe driving, this may be the perfect app for them.
TextLimit – At $24.99/year, this app is available for Android and iPhone. As a parent, you can set a speed limit at which the phone locks and is unable to text or call. Parents can add their numbers as "super-users," allowing for the phone to ring when they call.
Parents will also receive text alerts when their teen driver is speeding. The price is moderate for a yearlong subscription, and the app may qualify you for a discount through your insurance.
DriverSafe.ly – $13.95/year for single user or $34.95/year for the family pack. This is a great option if you have more than one teenage driver. With the family pack, you can cover all your family drivers.
The app provides an automatic response to texts and calls. It reads, "I'm driving, I will get back to you later." It also uses hands-free elements to prevent drivers from actually touching the phone by reading your text messages and emails aloud in real time.
CellControl – $89 (one-time purchase). This app works for both iPhone and Android, and it comes with a physical unit that is installed beneath the dash. Once the car begins to move, the screen is blocked on the driver's phone. The screen appears again when the car stops moving.
The unit is always active, so that means no tampering with it. If your teen tries to disable the app or remove the monitoring unit, CellControl will alert you. Overall, the price may seem steep at first, but it allows for different functions and automatic blocking – rather than requiring teens to activate it themselves.
Our law firm sees first-hand the devastation that texting and driving causes. We hope you and your teen understand the dire consequences related to distracted driving. Make sure to discuss the options with your new drivers and help them understand the risks involved.