4 Tech Tools to Keep Your Teen Safe Behind the Wheel

By Alex Perdikis

Getting a driver’s license is an exciting milestone for a teen. For parents, however, watching your new driver get behind the wheel and drive away solo can be unnerving, to say the least. Being worried about your teen driver is completely understandable. According to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens between the ages of 16 and 19 in the United States, and six teens die every day from motor vehicle injuries.

Luckily, we live in an era of abundant technology that can help put your mind at ease. There are a multitude of applications that make it easy for you to monitor your teen’s driving and encourage good habits to keep your young driver safe on the road.

  1. Automatic

Automatic is much more technologically advanced than most other safe-driving apps, but the setup is not complex. The app comes with a car adapter that plugs into your car’s standard diagnostics (OBD-II) port. This port is located under the dash in most cars made since 1996. The adapter unlocks the data in the car’s on-board computer and connects it, via Bluetooth, to the Automatic app on your teen’s phone. If your young driver drives too fast or brakes or accelerates too hard, Automatic issues an audio alert to remind your teen to ease up and drive more carefully. The Automatic Web Dashboard scores your teen’s driving and allows you to easily view his on-the-road habits.

Automatic includes an important safety component that many other apps don’t: Crash Alert. This feature can save your teen’s life if he is involved in a collision. When connected, the app can detect a severe accident and alert a live agent, who will notify emergency services and inform you of the incident. The Automatic adapter costs $99.95 and the app is free to install on iPhone and Android.

  1. LifeSaver

LifeSaver is a free app available for iOS and Android systems. There is no special installation required, aside from a simple download. The app uses GPS to detect when your teen is in a moving vehicle and locks the phone to prevent him from using distracting applications like text apps and web browsers. LifeSaver does, however, allow the driver to receive hands-free, inbound calls and to hear navigation while driving.

The app includes a Driver Portal that allows you to monitor your teen’s driving habits and receive arrival notifications when he reaches his intended destination. A passenger unlock feature allows a teen to utilize the full functionality of his phone when he is riding as a passenger, and the app notifies you when this feature has been activated.

  1. RoadPoints

Safe driving really pays off with the RoadPoints app. Using this easily installed app, parents can encourage safe driving with something that motivates nearly every teen: cash. The app monitors your teen’s driving speed and evaluates braking and acceleration to determine whether your teen is driving safely. It does not block texts or calls or show your teen’s location while driving, but it sends you daily, weekly or monthly report cards and notifies you when he exceeds the speed limit or executes a sudden start, stop or swerve.

You can log in to check your teen’s report card and reward him for practicing safe driving habits through a direct deposit into his PayPal account. You can try RoadPoints free for 30 days; after that, a subscription is just $9.99 per month.

  1. Drive Smart

If your teen loves games, Drive Smart might be right for him. It is a fun app that gamifies driving by allowing your teen to earn points and medals for good driving. With the basic version, your teen must set his phone to Drive Mode to begin earning points. While his phone is in this mode, incoming calls are sent directly to voicemail and incoming texts are muted. The app evaluates his driving and lets you know if he has any habits that need to be corrected.

With the Drive Smart Plus version, the app is able to detect when your teen is in a moving vehicle, and the program is automatically activated when driving begins. As with LifeSaver, your teen can override the drive mode when he is riding as a passenger and the app will notify you anytime the override function is used. The app is free to download from the App Store or Google Play.