There's no two ways about it, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States. Per mile driven, teen drivers aged 16 to 19 are three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to die in a crash. Teens are more likely to underestimate risk, teens are more likely to speed, and to compound matters, teens are less likely to wear seatbelts. So, what can a parent do to help ensure the safety of their teen driver on the road? These 10 car apps to keep your teen driving safely can help. Education, reducing distractions, and keeping an eye on their activities has also proven remarkably effective—which is exactly what these apps help you do.
Top Driving Apps That Will Keep Teens Safe
Automatic Smart Driving Assistant - Android & iOS
The Automatic Smart Driving Assistant application ($79) works with the Automatic link accessory ($99) to silence incoming text messages, notifications, and phone calls when they drive. It can auto-reply to callers with a text message to inform them your teen is behind the wheel. If a crash happens, the application’s Crash Alert will summon emergency help from local authorities, providing them with the incident’s location. The application is backed by a call center, where staffers will stay on the phone with your teen when an incident is phoned in, and call you to inform you of the situation. The application also keeps track of your teen’s driving style and offers advice for driving more efficiently.
Canary – Android & iOS
While Canary ($14.99) doesn’t stop text messages or calls from going to your teen’s phone, it rats them out if they unlock their phone while driving. It also snitches when they exceed speed limits, make/receive calls, send/receive text messages, go outside any geofences you establish, and/or if they violate a curfew. The next best thing to having your own personal private detective watching them, Canary sings like a bird (you had to know that one was coming right?) whenever your teen exceeds the established parameters. Further, Canary doesn’t have to be switched on or off whenever driving is about to happen. It simply runs in the background and begins to report when it’s in a moving car.
Cellcontrol – Android, Blackberry, iOS, Windows Mobile
Cellcontrol with DriveID ($129) bypasses GPS and instead relies upon Bluetooth enabled technology. The system interfaces with the DriveID module in order to integrate with your vehicle’s OBD port to determine motion, and implement your predetermined policies. This way, it works whether there’s a cell signal or not. Further, it knows who’s driving the car and what they are permitted to do. Cellcontrol goes beyond restricting cell phones; it also prevents distractions from other mobile devices, including laptops and tablets, which may also tempt teens to take their eyes off the road. But wait, there’s more, Cellcontrol can be set up to restrict only the driver, leaving passengers free to interact with their devices.
Drivesafe.ly – Blackberry OS and Android
The Drivesafe.ly application ($13.95 single user/$34.95 family pack) from iSpeech intercepts text messages and reads them aloud in real time so teens don’t have to handle their smartphones for this purpose while driving. Further, the application automatically responds in real time. Bluetooth and radio transmitter compatible, it works in a wide variety of cars, regardless of when they were built. The auto-responder is completely customizable, so they can have their response message say whatever they like. What’s more, it understands text shorthand. If the message says LOL, the reader will say laughing out loud. The system works for eMail as well. With the app on the screen of their smartphone, one touch activates it, or deactivates it—based upon their preference.
DriveScribe – Android & iOS
According to the folks at Drive Power, creators of DriveScribe, this application makes the smartphone a safe driving coach. DriveScribe keeps track of where your teen drives the car, what routes they take, and rats them out when they violate traffic laws. Parents can use the application’s points system to incentivize smart driving habits. Further, it blocks incoming messages and calls when the car is in motion to minimize distractions. At the end of each drive, DriveScribe assigns a score to the trip, based upon how well the driver performed. Scores are compared in DriveScribe’s social community, adding peer pressure to the mix of tools leveraged to keep your teen driver on the straight and narrow.
RoadReady – iOS
A component of The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program, which was a recipient of the US Department of Transportation National Roadway Safety Award, RoadReady was developed to keep track of a teen’s progress during the learner’s permit phase of their driving career. According to its builders, the application provides an easy, efficient way to ensure teens have enough experience behind the wheel in a variety of conditions before they begin to drive independently. It tracks the road type and weather conditions of each drive, maps driven routes, and offers suggestions for safer driving. It also logs their driving time, in order to demonstrate satisfaction of the time behind the wheel requirement many states impose before licensing can legally take place.
Safe Driver – iOS
The Safe Driver application from the Dangerous Decisions company takes advantage of the iPhone’s internal GPS locator systems and accelerometer to provide parents the instant capability to know when their teen driver exceeds whatever speed or acceleration set-points the parents want them to stay below. The application documents acceleration, braking, cornering and speed. When the pre-set parameters are exceeded, or a violation occurs, the program will automatically send the parent either a text message or an email message identifying the vehicle being used, the time the program started and stopped, the set point exceeded, the time of the infraction, and how long the set point was exceeded. In other words, Safe Driver is one serious son of a snitch.
Sprint Drive First – Android
Offered for free to Sprint customers only, Drive First intercepts incoming phone calls and text messages and responds to the sender, or caller with a message informing them the party they are trying to reach is currently operating an automobile and shouldn’t be distracted. The Drive First app sends calls directly to voicemail and silences email and text alerts when a phone running it is in any vehicle whose speed reaches 10 mph. For those times when the phone’s user is merely a passenger, Exit and 911 emergency buttons on the home screen of a locked device allow users to override the app. And yes, this also means your teen can switch it off whenever they like.
Steer Clear Mobile – Android & iOS
According to State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, its Steer Clear Mobile app is part of a comprehensive program designed to help young drivers reinforce positive driving behavior and stay aware of hazards on the road. Young drivers—under the age of 25, who complete the Steer Clear Safe Driver Discount Program, may be eligible for a lower premium on their State Farm auto insurance. The app makes it easy to log your driving experiences, including the amount of time spent driving, and road conditions. It offers tips on how to drive and what to look out for in a variety of weather conditions. It also features videos to allow teen drivers to see and hear about other drivers’ experiences.
TextLimit – Android, Blackberry & iOS
With the TextLimit application and Website ($24.99 annually per phone) you gain complete control over the features of your teen’s phone when it is moving. You pre-determine at what speed you want the features to become disabled. Once the phone falls below your selected speed, the features become active again. Even better, you can also set it up so all of your calls and text messages get through unimpeded regardless of the situation—whether they’re moving or not. TextLimit also offers the capability to geo-locate your teen’s phone on a map so you always know where they are. You can also select a specific geographical area within which you want to limit the phone’s features, and receive speeding alerts or other watchdog info.
Here’s the thing, humankind has yet to come up with a device another human being can’t beat if they put their mind to it. The key here is to enlist your teen’s acquiescence and participation. By and large, studies have found when the teen is asked, rather than forced to accept these applications; their cooperation is typically stronger. The best way to do this is to have a friendly discussion with your teen about the ramifications of driving and all of the dangers. After all, getting around these apps is as simple as switching off their phone. Which actually, is still a win when you think about it. That’s what you really want them to do when they drive anyway—right?