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Apps and devices - some free - help LI parents monitor teens' driving habits

Reports show top speed, hard braking, cellphone use while driving and more.

Gabe Orellana, 18, of Farmingdale, uses a mobile

Gabe Orellana, 18, of Farmingdale, uses a mobile app that tracks his braking, speed and other driving habits. Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

When Gabe Orellana of Farmingdale started driving, his parents required him to download the Life360 app’s Driver Protect Plan onto his smartphone. It tracks his top speed, slamming on of brakes and cellphone  use while driving, and his parents can see a weekly report.

“I don’t like being monitored. But I can’t really say no,” says Orellana, 18, a freshman at SUNY Fredonia whose parents still have him use the app when he’s home on school breaks and driving.

More apps and devices become available each year to help keep teens safer on the roads. John Messina, a parent from Syosset, also uses Life360’s Driver Protect Plan to keep tabs on his high school senior. “We’re not using it like a Big Brother situation,” Messina says. “But it was nice to see when he was first driving that he was driving safely.”

Proponents say that the apps can help teens avoid the temptation of distracted driving, and that the reports generated by apps and devices can help parents objectively show their children how they can improve their on-the-road performance. Some advocate a reward system  in which parents might offer a $10 Starbucks gift card, a Chipotle burrito or a tank of gas if a child consistently exhibits safe driving.

Parents can check with their cellphone providers or car insurance providers to see if they already offer monitoring options. Here are six other possibilities:

1.    Life360 Driver Protect Plan

Life360 Driver Protect Plan is offered through the Life360 app that is added to family members’ smartphones. It automatically detects when the phone is in motion, and it tracks top speed, hard braking, rapid acceleration and phone  use for each trip, says Life360 representative Sara Sutyak. In addition, it sends a push notification when a user has completed a trip, and parents can look at a map that shows the destination. The app also generates a weekly driver report. The driver’s phone must be turned on to track information.

In addition, the app provides crash detection and emergency response. If a driver is driving at least 25  mph and is involved in a collision, the app will notify emergency services with the location and alert family members. The plan also provides roadside assistance. The app will work even if the teen is in a friend’s car, so family members can also see if the friends are driving safely, Sutyak says.

The cost is $7.99 a month or $69.99 a year for all family members combined. life360.com/driverprotect/.

2.    EverDrive

EverDrive enlists kids’ love of gaming and competition to encourage them to be better drivers. The app tracks phone use while driving, hard  braking, speeding, acceleration and hard cornering, says Amy Danise, senior editor at EverQuote, the online insurance marketplace that owns the EverDrive app. “For each trip, it calculates a score,” Danise says, with 100 being the highest. The driver’s overall score is also tracked. Users can add other friends and family members. “You can make a group with family or whomever you want to compete with and see their scores,” Danise says. Users won’t be able to see trip locations, however, for privacy reasons, she says.

The score report tells drivers why they lost points so they can improve. “They might say, ‘I’m braking really hard and I have to stop doing that to do better.’ Phone use also dings a lot of people,” Danise says. Users are able to mark themselves as a passenger for a trip to exclude it from their score if they are in an Uber or a friend’s car, for instance, Danise says.

The app is free. everquote.com/everdrive/.

3.    Sentinel

Sentinel is an in-vehicle device with a voice chip and GPS tracker that speaks to the driver and reminds him or her to turn off the phone or put it in airplane mode before driving. If the phone is used during the trip, the device will repeat “Unauthorized cellphone use detected” until the use is discontinued, and parents will receive a text or email saying that the phone has been used, says Mary Hanawalt, IT lead for VRM Telematics, which developed Sentinel. If a parent needs to reach a child, the device will speak, “safely pull over and check your messages.” The Sentinel detects all cellphone use in the vehicle, so friends in the car won’t be able to use their phones either, unless the parent allows for passengers to do so.

The GPS tracker allows parents to track where the car is in real time and also shows a history of trips. Parents can set a mile radius from their home and know if the car has been taken outside that radius, Hanawalt says. They can also set a time the car can be used, and they will be notified if the car is used outside that limit. It also tracks driving behavior such as speeding and harsh acceleration, Hanawalt says. And parents will be alerted if the driver disconnects the device from the car.

The Sentinel costs $129 and also requires a $15 per month usage fee. Shipping is $6. drivewithsentinel.com.

4. Hum by Verizon

Hum products are offered through Verizon, but users don’t need to have Verizon cellphone service. There are four levels of Hum: Two are cellphone-based apps and two employ a device plugged into the car.

Hum and Hum Essentials are both phone-based apps; Hum is free and Hum Essentials costs $6 a month or $60  a year. Both offer an overall driver safety score — “You start each week at 100 and it deducts from there,” says Stephen Sneeden, Hum product spokesman. Parents would need to look at the child’s phone to see what deducted points from the safety score. Hum Essentials adds roadside assistance and automatic crash response.

Hum+ and Humx use a device plugged into the car’s OBD-II port. They allow the owner of the device to get speed alerts, vehicle location tracking, geographic boundary alerts and more. Hum+ costs $29.99 for the device and $10 per month, with a two-year commitment. Humx adds a speaker and creates a Wifi zone in the car and costs $69.99 for the device and $15 a month. hum.com.

5.    Katasi Groove

Groove plans to start rolling out in mid-2019 with participating cellphone providers. What’s different about Groove is that it will be activated at the cellphone network level, not on the individual phone, which will make it harder for drivers to avoid compliance, says Kenny Hawk, chief executive of Mojio, which is working with Katasi to offer the service. “Our platform detects ignition on and ignition off,” Hawk says.

Fifteen seconds after the car starts, the network provider will be notified and the transmissions to that phone will be delayed until the car stops, at which time the transmissions of distracting content such as texts, phone calls, Snapchat, Instagram and more will be transferred to the phone. The operation is controlled by a dongle plugged into the OBD port underneath the car’s steering wheel. Parents will be immediately notified if the dongle is unplugged.

Pricing has yet to be determined. katasi.com.

6. bSafe Mobile

bSafe Mobile currently offers software that goes on the phone and automatically detects when the phone is in motion and blocks out distractions such as incoming texts, phone calls and email. “It will drop a curtain screen in front of the phone,” says Olen Vanderleeden, vice president of sales and business development for Cogosense Technology company. The parent loads the software on their phone first and then invites up to four others to accept the invitation. They also plug the hardware dongle into the OBD-II port under the steering column. The driver can still use certain features such as GPS if they set the destination before driving, Vanderleeden says. The driver can override the control if they are in another person’s car if the parent permits that; calls to 911 are always permitted.

In March, the company will add the option of adding driving behavior reports that will show speeding, hard braking and harsh acceleration. The current cost is a one-time fee of $175. The driving behavior option has yet to be determined, and might be included in the base price, Vanderleeden says. bsafemobile.com.

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