Hey DIY’ers, after some much needed r-n-r for the holidays, I’m back in the driver’s seat, with a slew of DIY ideas for you and yours. For this first installment of 2014 (still can’t believe it!), I wanted to focus on something we can all relate to: keeping our families safe on the road.
As a proud mom and avid safety obsessive, I know that smartphones and cars can be a scary combination. When the teen driver or drivers in your household are old enough to get behind the wheel, they’re not going to put down their phones without a fight–and the temptation to text, surf and so forth while driving is almost impossible to resist.
So here’s one of the most important DIYs I’ll ever recommend: check out the following three mobile apps that aim to minimize distracted driving, and pick one as your first line of defense. Teen drivers might tell you you’re paranoid, but you know as well as I do: anything that discourages distracted driving is in everyone’s best interest.
DriveSafe.ly is so family-oriented that there’s even a “Family Pack” subscription option for up to four family members. The cost is $34.95 annually (or $9.99 per month), or you can get a single-user subscription for $13.95 annually ($3.99/mo.). So what does it do? Claiming to be “the #1 mobile app for texting while driving,” DriveSafe.ly reads up to 500 words per message in a digitized voice (male or female) and sends your spoken response as a reply, so you never have to take your eyes off the road. There’s also support for native Spanish speakers as well as the default English setup. If you want to keep costs out entirely, there’s a free version that reads up to 25 words in a female voice only–and can’t send replies.
FYI: I was unable to download the iPhone version, and the website talks mostly about the BlackBerry and Android platforms. Let me know if you can figure this out!
The thing about DriveSafe.ly is that you’ll never know whether your kid is actually using it. For parents who want a little more peace of mind, TextLimit is the best option I found. Here’s how it works: when you enroll your child’s iPhone, Android or BlackBerry phone (for $24.99 per year; Windows Phone coming soon), you choose a maximum GPS-measured speed at which the phone will be fully functional. Above that speed, you can disable as many apps as you want, including all text/email functionality. Furthermore, you can make your own phone exempt so that you’ll always be able to get through in an emergency. Also available is a “maximum top speed” function that sends an automatic email or text to you, the parent, if that top speed — 70 mph, say — is exceeded.
If you prefer positive reinforcement, DriveScribe might be just the ticket. I love the concept: rather than prevent kids from using their phones at all, give them pats on the back for choosing to be responsible drivers. DriveScribe awards points for braking gradually, stopping fully at stop signs, and obeying the speed limit, keeping a lifetime driver-behavior log all the while. If you elect to sponsor your child with a paid plan (the app is free by default), the rewards get real: we’re talking gift cards and discounts at Amazon, Sports Authority and other popular retailers. That’s the kind of stuff that my kids want. The only downside is that DriveScribe doesn’t prevent texting like TextLimit–but with any luck, your kid will be too busy driving prudently to pick up that phone.
What Works in Your Family?
Tell us what steps you’ve taken to curb distracted driving in your family, whether it’s a mobile app or something else. The more we talk about this important issue, the better off we’ll be.
Editor’s note: Ordering from Advance Auto Parts is an easy, seamless process–from a smartphone, tablet and otherwise. (Just don’t do it while you’re driving, please!) Buy online, pick up in store.
Learn more about prepping your teen driver with this article from DriverSide.
Graphic courtesy of Vintage Mobile Phones.