In the wake of Savannah Nash’s tragic death, it’s important that more parents become more aware of the solutions that are available to help prevent texting while driving.
It’s no secret, most people on the road are too distracted by their phones, but for young teens who essentially live their lives through their smartphone, the distraction can be life threatening. Savannah Nash, for example, was sending a lengthy text, and was so distracted by her phone that she pulled out in front of a semi on Highway 7 and died instantly. This horrific story highlights why it’s so important that parents take just a few minutes out of their day to download an app that could potentially save their child’s life. Below are five options.
Textecution ($29.99 one-time charge)
This app cuts off texting ability if the device is moving faster than 10 MPH. Any attempt to send a text message at more than 10mph brings up a window that simply says “you are moving too fast to use this application”. If a passenger is using the device, he or she may request an override. That request must be allowed by a Textecution “administrator,” such as a parent. The passenger is then notified by text that the request is pending. If the user tries to remove Textecution, the administrator also gets a heads-up. The only caveat with Textecution is when your teen’s car slows down or stops for a traffic light, the texting functionality comes back on, creating an open window for pending messages to come through.
Available on Android only.
OneProtect ($6.95 per month, or $76.45 per year)
OneProtect provides even more control for parents. Once the app is installed on a teen’s phone the parent can turn the app on remotely, making it impossible for a teen to turn the app off without the parents finding out. The way it works is, when your phone passes the threshold speed (typically 15 mph), OneProtect asks whether you’re a passenger or the driver. If you’re the driver, the phone’s manual calling and texting features are disabled making it so the driver can only send and receive hands-free calls, texts, and emails. However, apps — including all navigation apps other than Google Maps — will be completely disabled.
Like Textecution, OneProtect also offers passengers the ability to disable the app. However, whereas some apps make the disabling process really simple, OneProtect has made it such a challenge that users would be hard pressed to do so while driving. If you’re a passenger, you’re given a short quiz called an Attention Verification Test, which you have to pass in a timely manner in order to gain access to the phone’s features.
Available on Android and Blackberry.
AT&T DriveMode (Free)
This app automatically sends a customized reply to incoming texts, just like an “out-of-office” autoreply. It also disables all ingoing and outgoing calls and web browsing. Users manually enable the app before driving, though, so participation is strictly voluntary.
The app is free and prevents users from making or receiving texts while the app is on. Notification sounds for incoming texts, emails and phone calls will be silenced, and anyone trying to reach you will receive an automated reply letting them know that you are driving. The reply is completely customizable and is very similar to an “out of office” style alert for email.
With DriveMode active, users are allowed to make and receive calls from up to five people (911 is always available) along with being able to use one music app and one navigation app. The app can be turned off at anytime and responsibility solely lies in the hands of the user.
Available on Android and Blackberry.
DriveSafe.ly ($3.99/month or $13.95/year for a single user)
Instead of shutting down communications entirely, DriveSafe.ly reads text messages and emails out loud in real time, including shortcuts like LOL, and sends an autoresponse. You can even pick whether to have texts read to you with a male or female voice, or based upon the gender of the text sender.
When turned on, the app reads texts and emails aloud as they come in, so your teen doesn’t have to take their eyes off the road or their hands off the wheel. You can’t use it to reply, though you can set autoresponses.
As an added bonus, the makers say that it’s so lightweight that it won’t drain your battery (a real problem for many apps that use GPS and accelerometer features). DriveSafe.ly offers a free version and paid versions.
Available on iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile and Blackberry.
SafeCell aims to curb distracted driving in a couple of ways. First and foremost, it intercepts calls and text messages before they reach you (well, at least on Android phones). When it’s enabled, SafeCell autoresponds to calls and texts with a message letting the caller/texter know that you’re driving and can’t be reached. SafeCell also uses your handset’s built-in GPS to notify you of state and local laws regarding using your phone while driving.
Available on iPhone and Android.
While our research disappointingly revealed that none of these apps/services offer an ideal solution, which is entirely preventing your teen’s smartphone from being a distraction when they are driving (whether receiving alerts, text messages or phone calls), utilizing one of these apps/services allows a parent to follow though on the lesson that responsible cell phone use means no texting while driving. And for your teen, these solutions just make it easier for them to follow this rule.