Tech Tuesday: Back to school software, gadgets and apps for teen driving safety

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Here's what you need to know about the latest teen driving safety apps and technology for your young drivers this back-to-school season!

According to a AAA report from 2016: Between 2007 and 2015 an average of 59% of crashes contained some type of potentially distracting behavior during the six seconds leading up to a crash. 50% of teens admit to texting while driving.

The NHTSA says that in 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.Teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes.

With kids back to school, there are going to be a lot of parents who are very anxious because they have a young driver behind the wheel. 

So we took a look at three different kinds of technology that allow you to see how your children are driving. These products can show you speeding issues, hard breaking, and even if your teen is using his/her phone while driving.

We'll start with the most expensive, those which are built into the cars already, and end with standalone apps you can download for free, or access premium features with a subscription.

Built-in Systems


Chevy Teen Driver and OnStar Family Link:

Hyundai Blue Link:

Ford MyKey:

When you go to buy that next family vehicle, Ford has what they call MyKey, Hyundai has their own Blue Link system and Chevy cars have Teen Driver and OnStar Family Link.

There are some features which you'll find across these services. Like Michael Harley with Kelley Blue Book mentioned in the video, talking about FamilyLink, there's geo-fencing, so you know they've made it safely to school and home again after school.  Also, the ability to control how loud the radio can be played while driving. Like Teen Driver, Ford MyKey allows you to program keys with restricted vehicle modes that promote good driving habits. All but one of your keys can be configured in a restricted mode. Ford's MyKey even makes it so that the radio won't unmute until your teen puts their seat belt on. It also restricts your teen to a speed you've designated, and will 'ding' at him to get his attention if going too fast.

The upside to these systems is that they're built right into the cars themselves, so worrying about a rambunctious teen disabling anything is not an issue. But, again, this is more about guidance so we're really talking about conversations and not necessarily micro management. If you have a teen whose disabling things, there are probably other conversations you need to have. The prices on this tech ranges from free to under $10 a month. If you're already a Chevy owner, you can activate OnStar Family Link with a free  3-month trial right now, during the month of August.

Aftermarket Systems


Verizon HumX:

T-Mobile SyncUP DRIVE:

Next up is aftermarket add-ons. These are really cool because, often they also come with an app for your phone which allows you to see the health of your engine and other diagnostic information, along with the driving habits of your teen. In this case, we've got a product from Verizon and one from T-Mobile. T-Mobile's SyncUp is a dongle which plugs into something right under your steering wheel called an OBD2 port. It then connects with an app on your phone to provide the data. The added bonus with this and the product from Verizon, the HumX, is that they both come with a WiFi hotspot built-in which is great for weekend roadtrips when the entire family may be using the car.

Both devices give you similar options as the built-in systems in the cars we talked about already. Geo-fencing, speed warnings and travel logs. The feature we like that you get with the HumX that you don't with SyncUp is a speaker. So if you aren't rich, or your teen isn't, and their first car is a "beater" and doesn't have some of the modern conveniences like a speaker for phone conversations, your teen now has a handsfree way to make and/or respond calls, if necessary, while driving. That's really a great option for those with older cars, and worth checking out. For the SyncUp DRIVE, you're going to have to add at least a 2GB a month mobile data plan, then the device is $2 a month for 24months if you finance it. Otherwise, it's $48 outright which means you're going to pay $22 a month. With the Verizon HumX, you're looking at $6.25 a month if you finance the device, or $150 off contract. You're looking at the minimum 1GB data plan for $20 a month, so that's going to cost you $26.25 a month there.

Teen Driving Safety Apps


Download it now, if you’re on mobile:



The final category is apps. They all work very similarly so we're going to look at one of our favorites, Life360. It's what is commonly referred to as "freeware." That means its core functions are free, but if you want the full functionality, you're going  to have pay for it. For free, you'll be able to see a trip log, get the geo-fencing features and see how fast the young ones have been driving, but that's it. Which, may be more than enough for you to use to just check in from time to time and have a conversation if it is needed. The premium features you'd have to pay for are:  the ability to see if your teen has used their cell phone during a drive, 24/7Extended Roadside Assistance and Automatic Crash Detection and EmergencyResponse, so if a member of your family is involved in a serious crash, Life360will contact emergency responders and direct them to the exact location andthen contact other family members. Also, logging of rapid accelerations, and hard braking.

The premium features of Life360 run as little as $2.99 a month or $24.99 annually or you can unlock all of the app’s features for $7.99 a month or $69.99 annually.

We're also linking you to a really cool teen driving safety campaign called Parents Are The Key. It's put together by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC. There you'll find a Parent Teen driving agreement, a quick read on the eight things new drivers need to be aware of, and more.


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