The Best New Tech to Protect Drivers from Using Tech While Driving

Apps to help you drive smart and stay safe.

person texting

Yes—it’s come to this: we are so connected to our technology that even while driving, and even with the documented dangers of distracted driving, we have proven so unable to put down our devices that a fleet of apps have arrived to protect us from ourselves. The irony of tech to protect from tech is not lost on us, but the following apps have the potential to help us all drive more safely.

Safety Apps for the Parents of Teens

Recently licensed teen drivers present several possible safety issues. Much of driving (and how well we drive) is based on experience: if you’ve encountered a patch of black ice many times before, you’ll have more skills to navigate a skid. Likewise, if you’ve dealt with a driver in front of you suddenly slamming on their brakes many times over several years, your response might be closer to instinctual—muscle memory—rather than intellectual. Teens, then, really need to pay much more attention while driving, and be much more engaged and not at all distracted, than more experienced drivers (though truly none of us should ever drive distracted). We’ll avoid the obvious joke about teens preferring not to toe the line when it cuts down on fun and just say: the following apps will help ensure your teenage driver doesn’t text while behind the wheel:

LifeSaver works with iOS and Android systems, and it’s completely free. Users don’t do anything beyond downloading the app—LifeSaver runs in the background all the time, and uses GPS to lock the phone when the owner is in a moving car (they promise battery-saving technologies). There’s a “passenger unlock” feature for when your teen isn’t driving (complete with text notifications to whoever is monitoring the teen) and an “arrivals” feature, so you can be sure your precious cargo made it to their destination.

Cellphone-locking apps have proved popular with parents of new drivers & the teens themselves.

CellControl is a more intense anti-texting app. It works with both iOS and Android systems, and can be purchased for a one-time fee of $129, though CellControl and many of their insurance partners run discount programs. You’ll have to do just a little more than simply download the app—this system requires you to mount the DriveID device to the windshield underneath and behind the rear view mirror. Once the car is in motion, a blocking screen will appear on the connected phone, preventing texting, talking, emailing, and web surfing. CellControl also provides driver performance data, as well as location and parental controls.

Update: In January 2016, CellControl released a new app, called DriveUP, that monitors and scores your driving and phone use behind the wheel, to help identify issues in driving behavior and distracted driving.

SafeDrive, available for iOS and Android, is an incentive program that reinforces safe driving with rewards: drivers open the app before hitting the road, and earn points for not texting as they go along. That’s it-just drive without texting, and you’ll earn points-points with real-world value. The points you earn not using your phone while driving can be used in the Safe Drive Marketplace-a shop (ever-growing, the company emphasizes) with discounted items from partner companies. Users can “play” with other users, comparing scores and even winning their opponents points. We think it’s a pretty cool way to emphasize safe driving practices.


Safety for the Rest of Us

Even if a parental figure is no longer watching your every move (to keep you safe!), you can still benefit from driving safety apps:

DriveMode is a free app that works with both iOS and Android systems, and requires no additional hardware. The app is only available for AT&T customers, though. Part of AT&T’s It Can Wait safe driving campaign, this app silences incoming texts and calls when the owner is driving over 15 mph in a car. The app will even send an auto-reply to the sender that you’re behind the wheel.

The irony of tech to protect from tech isn't lost on us, but some apps can curb distracted driving.

Safest Text Auto Reply is another great app for helping us put down the technology when driving while still keeping those trying to reach you informed. Safest Text is free, but it’s only available for Android users. With this app, you can put your phone into “do not disturb” mode whenever you need to, and the app will send an auto-reply (that you write yourself) to anyone trying to reach you via text or phone. You have to turn it on yourself (so it’s for conscientious adults, not parents of young drivers) but you’re not limited to use while driving—if you’re in an important meeting, or just want to enjoy a quiet dinner, this app can help you out.

Cobra JoyRide is a car charging system (for Android phones only) that helps simplifiy smartphones for safer use while driving. For example, if you need to use your phone for directions while driving, this system will help you do so much easier (with voice activation, and simplified settings). Cobra JoyRide even helps you listen to music from your phone while driving with less distraction–what’s better than that?

What driving safety apps have you tried? Tell us in the comments.