When Gabe Orellana of Farmingdale, N.Y., started driving, his parents required him to download the Life360 app’s Driver Protect to his smartphone. It tracks his top speed, slamming brakes and cellphone use while driving, and his parents can see a weekly report.
“I don’t like being monitored. But I can’t really say no,” said Orellana, 18, a freshman at the State University of New York, Fredonia whose parents still have him use the app when he’s home on school breaks and driving.
More apps and devices become available every year to help keep teens safer on the roads. John Messina, a parent from Syosset, also uses Life360’s Driver Protect to keep tabs on his high school senior. “We’re not using it like a Big Brother situation,” Messina said. “But it was nice to see when he was first driving that he was driving safely.”
Proponents say that the apps can help teens avoid the temptation of distracted driving, and that the reports generated by apps and devices can help parents objectively show their children how they can improve their on-the-road performance. Some advocate a reward system in which parents might offer a gift card, a burrito or a tank of gas if a child consistently exhibits safe driving.
Parents can check with their cellphone providers or car insurance providers to see if they already offer monitoring options. Here are six possibilities:
–– Life360 Driver Protect.
Life360 Driver Protect is offered through the Life360 app, which is added to family members’ smartphones. It automatically detects when the phone is in motion, and it tracks top speed, hard braking, rapid acceleration and phone use for each trip, Life360 representative Sara Sutyak said. In addition, it sends a push notification when a user has completed a trip, and parents can look at a map that shows the destination. The app also generates a weekly driver report. The driver’s phone must be turned on to track information.
In addition, the app provides crash detection and emergency response. If a driver is driving at least 25 mph and is involved in a collision, the app will notify emergency services with the location and alert family members. The plan also provides roadside assistance. The app will work even if the teen is in a friend’s car, so family members can also see if the friends are driving safely, Sutyak said.
The cost is $7.99 a month, or $69.99 a year for all family members. life360.com/driverprotect/
EverDrive enlists kids’ love of gaming and competition to encourage them to be better drivers. The app tracks phone use while driving, hard braking, speeding, acceleration and hard cornering, said Amy Danise, senior editor at EverQuote, the online insurance marketplace that owns the EverDrive app. “For each trip, it calculates a score,” Danise said, with 100 being the highest. The driver’s overall score is also tracked. Users can add other friends and family members. “You can make a group with family or whomever you want to compete with and see their scores,” Danise said. Users won’t be able to see trip locations, however, for privacy reasons, she said.
The score report tells drivers why they lost points so they can improve. “They might say, ‘I’m braking really hard and I have to stop doing that to do better.’ Phone use also dings a lot of people,” Danise said. Users are able to mark themselves as passengers for a trip to exclude it from their score if they are in an Uber or a friend’s car, for example, Danise said.
The app is free. everquote.com/everdrive/
Sentinel is an in-vehicle device with a voice chip and GPS tracker that speaks to the driver and reminds him or her to turn off the phone or put it in airplane mode before driving. If the phone is used during the trip, the device will repeat “unauthorized cellphone use detected” until the use is discontinued, and parents will receive a text or email saying that the phone has been used, said Mary Hanawalt, IT lead for VRM Telematics, which developed Sentinel. If a parent needs to reach a child, the device will say, “Safely pull over and check your messages.” The Sentinel detects all cellphone use in the vehicle, so friends in the car won’t be able to use their phones either, unless the parent allows passengers to do so.
The GPS tracker allows parents to track where the car is in real time and also shows a history of trips. Parents can set a mile radius from their home and know if the car has been taken outside that radius, Hanawalt said. They can also set a time the car can be used, and they will be notified if the car is used outside that limit. It also tracks driving behavior such as speeding and harsh acceleration, Hanawalt said. And parents will be alerted if the driver disconnects the device from the car.
The Sentinel costs $129 and requires a $15 monthly fee. Shipping is $6. .drivewithsentinel.com
Hum products are offered through Verizon, but users needn’t have Verizon cellphone service. There are four levels of Hum: two are cellphone-based apps and two employ a device plugged into the car.
Hum and Hum Essentials are both phone-based apps; Hum is free and Hum Essentials costs $6 a month or $60 a year. Both offer an overall driver safety score — “You start each week at 100 and it deducts from there,” said Stephen Sneeden, Hum product spokesman. Parents would need to look at the child’s phone to see what deducted points from the safety score. Hum Essentials adds roadside assistance and automatic crash response.
Hum+ and Humx use a device plugged into the car’s OBD-II port. They allow the owner of the device to get speed alerts, vehicle location tracking, geographic boundary alerts and more. Hum+ costs $29.99 for the device and $10 per month, with a two-year commitment. Humx adds a speaker and creates a Wi-Fi zone in the car and costs $69.99 for the device and $15 a month. hum.com.
–– Katasi Groove.
Groove will be introduced this year through cellphone providers. What’s different about Groove is that it will be activated at the cellphone network level, not on individual phones, which will make it harder for drivers to avoid compliance, said Kenny Hawk, chief executive of Mojio, which is working with Katasi to offer the service. “Our platform detects ignition on and ignition off,” Hawk said.
Fifteen seconds after the car starts, the network provider will be notified and the transmissions to that phone will be delayed until the car stops, at which time the transmissions of distracting content such as texts, phone calls, Snapchat, Instagram and more will be transferred to the phone. The operation is controlled by a dongle plugged into the OBD port underneath the car’s steering wheel. Parents will be immediately notified if the dongle is unplugged.
Pricing has not yet been set. www.katasi.com
–– BSafe Mobile.
BSafe Mobile offers software that goes on the phone and automatically detects when the phone is in motion and blocks out distractions such as incoming texts, phone calls and email. “It will drop a curtain screen in front of the phone,” said Olen Vanderleeden, vice president of sales and business development for Cogosense Technology. Parents load the software on their phones first, and then invites up to four others to accept the invitation. They plug the hardware dongle into the OBD port under the steering column. The driver can still use certain features such as GPS if they set the destination before driving, Vanderleeden said. The driver can override the control if they are in another person’s car if the parent permits that; calls to 911 are always permitted.
In March, the company will add the option of adding driving behavior reports that will show speeding, hard braking and harsh acceleration. The current cost is a onetime fee of $175. The driving behavior option has yet to be determined, and might be included in the base price, Vanderleeden said. www.bsafemobile.com