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Apps To Stop Your Teen — Or Yourself — From Texting While Driving

By Aaron Crowe

The “Do what I say, not what I do” mantra of parents can fall on deaf teenage ears when it comes to texting and driving.

But parents are following their own advice to not text less than their children are.

Just about every adult knows that texting or emailing while driving is unsafe, yet almost half admit they text while driving, compared with 43% of teens who admit doing it, according to USA Today.

Each day an average of more than nine people are killed and more than 1,060 injured in crashes caused by distracted driving, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To avoid becoming one of those statistics, parents and teens can use one of the many apps that prevent using a phone while driving. Some apps tell a parent how their teen is driving, which is a feature some teens may want to monitor their parents’ driving. Here are some of the apps we found, with details on what they offer:

Cellcontrol from Esurance, an online car insurance company owned by Allstate, is free to its teenage policyholders. It’s a hardware/app combo that will block texting, phone calls and app use such as GPS apps while a car is moving. A small device, which normally costs $100, is plugged into the car’s on-board diagnostics port and the settings for as many devices as they want to control are entered. If the teen unplugs the device while it’s in motion the parent will be alerted.

Safely Go is a free app that locks the phone and sends automatic text replies to anyone calling or texting you that you’re driving.

Text Buster is a free app on Google Play, though a salesman for the company says a monitoring device must be bought. A master phone is used to download the app, allowing a parent to set up which vehicle they want to prevent texts to. A small device is hidden under the vehicle’s dashboard and the app works whenever the driver enters the vehicle. Tracking information is provided so that a parent can view the history of trips and set alert notifications by email when there are pre-set violations.

DriveSafe.ly is an app that reads text messages and emails aloud in real time and automatically responds without drivers touching the phone.

TXT ME L8R app is $5. It works at a selected “texting speed limit” when the phone is moving and will block the phone from sending or receiving text messages or using other apps. The driver won’t know they’ve received a message, but the sender will get an automatic reply of “TXT ME L8R — I am Driving.” All incoming phone calls will go straight to voicemail. The app also sends emails to addresses set up on the phone for alerts when the car goes above the state speed limit, noting the speed and location of the phone.

Sprint Drive First app also sends automatic replies to text messages and incoming calls to voicemail. It locks Android mobile phones when the phone’s GPS detections motion above 10 mph. It’s available to Sprint customers for $2 per month.

All of these apps are meant to be discussed by parents with their teen drivers, along with the importance of not using their cellphone while driving.

One app, however, looks like it’s meant to be kept secret and installed without warning. The mSpy app runs invisibly on a phone and logs activity so that someone can remotely track the activity. Plans start at $13 a month. It allows a remote user to listen to incoming and outgoing calls, record calls, track text messages, block access to websites, view Skype messages and many other ways to see what’s happening on another phone.

If you’re going to go that far, you might as well hide the phone battery or make the teen trade the phone for car keys. Or don’t buy or allow them to have a cellphone in the first place.

Or go the comedy route to get the message across by getting them a free pair of thumb socks so they can’t text while driving. While funny, the “Thumb Wars” campaign by DoSomething.org starts May 14 and is meant as a serious way to get teens to spread the word about the dangers of texting and driving.

They might want to get a pair for their parents.

Aaron Crowe is a writer who covers auto insurance for CheapCarInsurance.net.