Even if it’s been a while, you remember your first car – the freedom to go wherever you wanted, whenever you wanted! No more waiting for your parents or bumming rides from friends! It’s a teen’s first taste of freedom. Unfortunately, the safety stats on teen driving is not great. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for 16 to 19-year-olds. Teenagers are more likely than any other age group to get a ticket or be in an accident. While that’s always been true, the risks today are compounded by distracted driving—often in the form of texting. Fortunately, technology can actually help solve this problem. Parents and teens can take advantage of multiple apps related to safe driving—whether you’re interested in monitoring your teen’s driving habits, or just ensuring that their phone doesn’t become a deadly distraction when they’re on the road.
Most states now outlaw texting while driving, but many permit hands-free usage. If you’re OK with your teen using voice commands, check out the hands-free tools on your phone. For instance, the iPhone has “Hey, Siri” functionality, which allows a user to do anything the iPhone can do with voice commands—no need to even push the Home button. Learn more about Hey, Siri. Android phones also offer hands-free voice commands. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for details on using voice commands. Newer cars may also offer the ability to sync with a phone, offering hands-free phone calls and music control while you drive. Check instructions from your car and phone manufacturers to connect your phone and car.
Prevent the Distractions
It’s really hard to compete with the distracting power of a smartphone. You could make your teen promise to turn off the phone while they’re driving, but everyone forgets sometimes. Several iOS and Android apps take care of remembering the details for you, though. They use the smartphone’s sensors to understand when the phone is traveling fast enough to be in a moving car, and when it is, the apps disable texting, or switch to verbal commands.
(Free, Android and iOS) DriveSafe Mode is an app that can block phone and text access while the car is driving above a speed the parent determines. You can configure special numbers that can be dialed in an emergency, and you’ll get an alert if your teen is driving but turns off the DriveSafe app.
You might have bigger concerns, though. If you’d like to assess whether your teen is driving too fast, or going places they shouldn’t, check out these apps that let you monitor driving habits and track locations.
(Free, Android and iOS) Canary doesn’t limit phone functionality, but it sends parents a notification when the teen driver texts or phones while on the road. It can also monitor speed and alert you if your teen is outside an approved perimeter.
($24.99/year/phone: Android and iOS) TextLimit allows the administrator to block access to distracting apps above a certain speed. You can also locate the phone on a map and get speed alerts.
Even more sophisticated: Technology that installs in a car itself to give you a full report of how the car is being used, as well as focusing on safety. Both devices below are compatible with iOS and Android.
The Automatic adapter plugs into your car’s diagnostic port (available on most cars starting from the 1996 model year) and decodes your car’s stats on related apps on your smartphone. You can monitor gas mileage, find your parked car, track maintenance needs, and more. For a teen driver, the License+ app pairs with Automatic to offer your teen coaching on safe driving. (Cost: $99)
Cellcontrol focuses solely on safe driving, but offers the benefit of a family system that can detect who’s driving—allowing other family members in the vehicle to use their phones unimpeded. The family administrator prevents distracted driving by setting a pre-defined policy of what phone features are permitted while driving. It logs trip maps and other driver history. (Cost: $129)
However you use technology to help, safe driving to you and your teen!