Sunday, December 9, 2012

It's tempting to immediately check your phone when it notifies you of a new text message. But ignoring that sound when operating a vehicle is important for safe driving something that can be difficult, especially for teenagers.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) added distracted driving to its 2013 "most-wanted list" in November. So far, 35 states have passed laws banning cellphone use while driving, however some of those bans only pertain to beginner drivers.

App developers have made a number of apps for both iOS and Android devices that help parents encourage their kids not to text and drive at the same time.

Some of these apps put a lock on the texting function, and leave it up to teens to be responsible drivers. Others let the parents control the phone by putting it in airplane mode so when a text comes in, the phone doesn't even beep. The level of parental control varies with each apps -- some require more responsibility on the part of your teenager to launch the app, while others can detect when the car moves at a particular speed.


The Android app by car insurance company Esure can detect when drivers are traveling at more than 10 mph, and will shut off other apps that could be distracting, as well as temporarily halt incoming calls and text messages. The free app also displays a static screensaver, that gives your teen even less of a reason to glance at their phone.


This app from AT&T, a company that's been particularly vocal about the dangers of texting and driving, automatically launches once the car is moving at more than 25 mph. The app responds to all incoming texts and emails, letting the sender know the recipient is driving and will get back to them soon. All beeps and other tempting sounds that indicate a new message will be temporarily disabled. Any calls to the phone are sent directly to voicemail. The free app is available for AT&T customers with Android and BlackBerry devices.


The TextBuster system requires the installment of a hardware device into your teen's car. The password-protected app notifies the hardware every time they enter their car and temporarily disables text messaging, email and Internet access while the vehicle is moving. The phone can still make and receive calls, and the GPS mapping functions still work, so this app might be best for a driver with some self-control. The free app is available for Android devices. The hardware device needed to use the app is currently on sale for $179 from $199.95.


This free app turns cellphones into safe-driving devices and is a great tool for parents who want a more hands-on approach when it comes to their teens and distracted driving. DriveScribe monitors the driver's speed, and blocks text messages and calls while the car is in motion. The app will also tell drivers to slow down if they're going too fast. It's up to the driver to tap "start trip" before driving, then "end trip" when reaching the destination. Parents can also access a report to see if the driver exceeded speed limits or ran any stop signs.


This app lets parents see their child's cellphone use in real time, so they can know if their son or daughter uses the phone while driving more than 12 mph. The app also records times when the cellphone was used, and sends parents a warning if their teen drives into an area they've established as off-limits. Parents will also be notified if their teen disables Canary. The free app is available for iOS and Android devices.