It’s not just new drivers who are affected by nerves; as your loved ones take to the car, you might also experience butterflies (and not the nice kind). Even if you’re not the wrap ’em up in cotton-wool type, you can still acknowledge the risks they’re undertaking—and it’s natural to want to set your mind at ease. As it turns out, there’s a driving monitor app for that. Or, several, actually!
So, as your nearest and dearest rev away on their first solo drive; their first long journey, their first time borrowing your car, here are some of the ways you can keep a virtual eye on them and check that they’re safe.
What do driving monitor apps offer?
Nowadays, there’s a lot of emphasis on wellness and acts that keep us healthy. And whether you love or loathe the self-care movement, we can all recognise the importance of safety in keeping physically, and mentally, well. Companies have responded to this trend by developing apps to help keep you, your family and friends safe while in the car. These driving monitor apps largely fall into two categories, although some of them span both.
Once upon a time, tracking someone’s every movement would have put you in a distinctly creepy category. Now you can do so with informed consent—and in a way that benefits both tracker and trackee. Just as you can ‘follow my ride’ from an Uber, an extra security measure designed to protect passengers, you can check location updates from your loved ones about their car journeys.
No longer do you have to worry about whether they’ve been caught up in an accident. No longer do they have to remember to send a ‘I got there safely’ message, or let you know when they’re leaving. And if there is an emergency, it’s easier for them—or someone else—to let you know if you’re needed.
Some tracking apps are designed with driving in mind; others are more general, but no less useful. If you don’t want to share every intimate detail of your daily movements, you don’t have to. Just activate the app when you get in the car.
You might have heard of telematics in terms of insurance: so-called ‘black box’ policies gather data on your journeys and use this to establish your competence on the roads. They use GPS to check on your driving habits, and incentivise ‘good driving’ with rewards, such as money back on your insurance.
Not all telematics apps feed information back to an insurer, though. Some are designed for personal feedback only; others you can share with specific friends or family to keep them in the loop.
After all, if you’re letting your offspring loose with your car, it’s only fair that you know how it’s being treated. Just remember that it takes time to become an accomplished driver. We’re not going to get into the minefield of parenting techniques here, but using driving monitor apps to make sure your child is safe should be for your peace of mind. It shouldn’t come at the expense of trust. As with most things, it’s a balancing act.
Can you trust telematics data?
No driving monitor app is 100% reliable, and so all telematics data need to be viewed with that in mind. During our tests of the apps below, some of them picked up phone usage ‘whilst driving’, which was actually conducted after the driver was safely parked and had turned the engine off.
Driving monitor apps to stay safe
1) Life360: Family Locator & GPS Tracker
Free for the basic package, you can add people to different groups, called ‘circles’. With their permission, you’ll be able to track their location in real-time, and if you hit ‘Get Directions’, you’ll be taken straight to the route on Google Maps.
You can also choose locations, where circle members will be notified when you leave from, or arrive at, specific places. This is handy for places you frequent, like your home and workplace; in this instance, your circle would be able to track your commute. You can add two locations for free, or an unlimited number with the premium version of the app. Check in when you arrive at any other destination, and your circle will receive an automatic message; trigger a ‘Help Alert’ on the safety tab, and they’ll be notified that you need assistance.
If that all feels a bit intrusive, there’s a feature called Bubbles, which lets you temporarily set up a wider radius where your movements remain private. Only if you stray outside of your ‘bubble’ will your circle be alerted to your exact location.
One of the most useful features in terms of driving is the Drive Detection mode, which gives you your a weekly driving report, and data on how and where your group has driven that day. This details information like any incidences of hard braking, travelling at high speeds or phone usage at the wheel. For a monthly fee, you can upgrade your app to access weekly driving reports and look back on data for the last 30 days.
Good as it is, Life360 isn’t perfect: having the app running in the background does drain your battery. So, if you’re just planning on using it for monitoring driving safety, make sure to turn it off when you’re not behind the wheel. We’d also love to see crash detection feature, currently only available in the US, extended to the UK market soon.
Overall, though, we think Life360 offers the best of both worlds: tracking and telematics, and a good level of safety features available for free.
✓ Telematics features to encourage safe driving
✓ Ability to message directly within the app
✓ Accurate tracking
✓ Emergency contacts alerted to problems at the touch of a button
❌ Drains your battery
Location tracking apps
2) Google Maps
For those who don’t want the extra data features, or yet another app on their phone, Google Maps is the answer. You probably already use it to direct you on unfamiliar drives, but it also has the option to share your location with any contact on your phone. It’ll update in real-time, and you can opt to turn off sharing at a particular time, or manually whenever you choose.
✓ Accurate GPS tracking
✓ No need for a separate app
❌ No settings to promote safer driving habits
3) Find My
This old faithful has been a stalwart of Apple devices for years: if you’ve both got iPhones or other Apple devices, you can use Find My to track each other. This provides obvious benefits for driving: you can check that your friend or family member has arrived safely at their destination, without them even needing to message.
✓ Accurate tracking device
✓ Allows you to check locations without coming across as protective
❌ Limited to Apple devices
Find out more (including links to download the app): Apple.
4) TrueMotion Family Safe Driving
Driving monitor app, TrueMotion, scores journeys out of 100, according to how well it thinks you’ve performed. You lose points if the app detects you driving aggressively, speeding or using your phone.
Connected groups of users are ranked weekly from best to worst. This system could act as motivation to improve driving behaviour, but just be sure that it’s helping, not hindering, your family’s relationships with driving (and with each other!). Positive feedback loops are often more helpful in improving confidence than negative. So, if someone consistently comes out bottom of the league, they’ll probably lose interest.
Tracking is also available through TrueMotion, so you can find the location of individual members of your group at the touch of a button.
✓ Incorporates both tracking and telematics
✓ Incentivises improvements to driver behaviour
❌ Mixed reviews as to how well it works
5) Drive Safely
A little different to the other apps on this list, Drive Safely claims to help beat distracted driving by monitoring you, rather than just your driving. It analyses driver behaviour using a front facing camera and can detect whether you’re eating, smoking or drowsy. It then gives you ideas about how to stay more focused on the roads.
✓ Encourages better driving behaviour
❌ Drains the battery, so needs to be plugged in while you drive
❌ Limited reviews, so there isn’t much data on how well the app works
❌ Currently only available for Android devices
Find out more (including links to download the app): Android.
Do you use a driving monitor app to encourage safe driving habits and track your family? Tell us about it below and we’ll review it next!