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Protecting your teens from the perils of texting and driving Add to ...

Texting while driving is fraught with danger, and yet there are services that help you manage them using only your voice. If you're of the opinion that it just shouldn't be an option to begin with, then these two apps might be exactly what you're looking for to block texting completely.

PhoneGuard Drive Safe

  • $29.99 annual subscription
  • Available at: Android Market, BlackBerry App World, PhoneGuard.com

PhoneGuard may be the company behind this, but the app that does all the legwork is Drive Safe - a fitting name considering what it can do to a phone on the road. Once installed, you can set the parameters of what to disable, and when, by using the app's admin access.

Disabling texting and calling is the key feature, but Drive Safe can go further and actually disable these features in a set area or at set times, which parents might like to do for their teens. Using the phone's built-in GPS, the app can turn off features based on driving speed, and it can also do this based on time of day set by you, regardless of whether the user is in the car or not. It even sends a text to the admin when a set speed limit has been breached.

So long as the admin password is protected, there is no other way to override Drive Safe. Turning the phone off and on, removing the battery or trying to restore the phone to factory default won't do the trick either.

One significant downside to using PhoneGuard - and txtBlocker for that matter - is that they disable other device functions that could still be useful in the car. You can't playback any music stored on the device, nor stream audio from other apps when the phone is disabled.

txtBlocker

  • $6.99 monthly for single-user plan
  • $9.99 monthly for family plan
  • $69.99 prepaid for full year
  • Available at: Android Market, BlackBerry App World, (Coming soon to iPhone, Windows Phone 7 and HP Palm Pre), txtBlocker.com

Whenever txtBlocker is active, incoming texts and calls are kept aside until the phone is back to its normal state. Those trying to reach you also get a text message reply indicating that you're driving and will respond at a safer time. Mind you, this can be tweaked enough to allow calls to come in so long as you have a Bluetooth headset or speakerphone for hands-free calls. Unfortunately, txtBlocker also blocks access to other apps on the phone, so music playback and streaming is a non-starter.

Like Drive Safe, txtBlocker can also disable texting and calling in set perimeters and at set times of the day. Exceptions can be made for phone numbers you select as part of the Safe List, and again, admin access pretty much means the list is tamper-proof - unless, of course, your teen has figured out the password. Along with text alerts for excessive speed, txtBlocker also notifies the admin when a 911 call has been made from the phone as well.

The single-user licence is only good for one phone, but the family plan can cover multiple handsets, provided that they're compatible with txtBlocker. A detailed list is available on the website.

It's hard to say whether one of these services is better than the other because they basically offer the same features and performance. And while they are being marketed to parents, they could still prove useful to yourself if you're trying to break the habit of texting while driving.

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