Want to be a safer driver — and possibly save money on your car insurance? There’s an app for that.
Actually, more than one app. Car insurers, cellphone companies and other businesses are offering a variety of free or low-cost apps, games and tools to help improve your driving. Some of these can lead directly to discounts on your car insurance bill.
State Farm, for instance, has an app called Steer Clear, available for iPhone and Android devices, that’s aimed at drivers age 16 to 24. By going through the app (which includes supervised driving practice, videos and questionnaires), you can qualify for a discount of up to 15 percent. As of January 2012, about 62,000 users had downloaded the app, State Farm spokesman Matt Edwards says.
“There is research showing that people who take safer-driving courses traditionally will have a better driving record,” he says.
Some insurers use this technology in safe driving apps but aren’t yet tying these to direct discounts. Still, these apps can potentially help you nab a safe driver discount by helping you become more careful behind the wheel.
State Farm’s Driver Feedback app, for example, tracks how and where you drive. No discounts are given if you score well, but the app can be used by drivers to police themselves or by parents to keep an eye on their teen drivers.
“I’ve heard stories where parents will use it as a way to grant additional or maintain driver privileges,” Edwards says. “It’s not quite as Big Brother-y as LoJacking their car (installing tracking devices), but it’s a way to keep parents aware.”
Other types of safe driving apps include tools to limit your ability to text, surf the web or tweet while on the move (what Edwards calls “webbing while driving”). Some of these are available from mobile phone carriers. AT&T, for instance, offers DriveMode free to customers; it puts a halt to text message if you’re going more than 25 miles per hour. Similarly, Sprint’s Drive First app prevents calls and texts if you’re traveling more than 10 mph.
You also can download apps – some free, some for a fee – offered by vendors. Here are a few:
- DriveSafe.ly (free – iOS, Blackberry, Android, Windows OS): Reads your texts, tweets and Facebook messages to you so you can drive hands-free, potentially eliminating a major source of distracted driving.
- DriveScribe (free – iOS, Android): Monitors driving, gives driving advice (warns if you’re going too fast, for example). You can earn gift cards for safe driving.
- DriveAlive ($4.99 – iOS, Android): Monitors your phone use while the app is running; if you don’t use your phone, you can rack up credits that can be turned into monetary rewards — including gift cards or PayPal rebates.
- App4Drivers ($4.99 – iOS): Lets parents set speed and other limits; if teens approach these limits, they get a warning, plus parents get notified.
If you’re a senior driver, car insurance companies have apps and tools to help sharpen your behind-the-wheel skills.
Liberty Mutual has a senior-oriented simulation called Driver Seat Game, available for the iPhone or online. This game lets you explore various driving scenarios, such as urban or wilderness conditions, and perform tasks such as picking up someone from the airport, all while “steering” with controls on your keyboard.
DriveSharp, a series of online brain-training exercises from Posit Science, comes free with some AAA and USAA car insurance policies.
Insurers also target teen drivers with online games or apps. Allstate Insurance, for example, has four free games on its teen drivers’ site (www.allstateteendriver.com) that are aimed more at brain-training and other brain-improvement tools than at driving simulation.