DriveSmart: The Cure for a National Epidemic?

by on June 11, 2012 · 19 comments

DriveSmart from T-Mobile is no longer available.

A recent study revealed that 58% of high school seniors and 43% of high school juniors in America admitted to texting while driving, despite knowing the dangers. The survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), questioned over 15,000 students in US public and private high schools.

Within the past month, two US teenagers were sentenced to jail for fatal accidents caused by texting while driving, further highlighting this serious problem. US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has called the problem of texting while driving a ““national epidemic.”

T-Mobile offers a solution that may give peace of mind to parents of driving teens. DriveSmart is a T-Mobile app that locks your phone screen when the phone is traveling greater than 10 mph. While the screen is locked with DriveSmart, access is blocked to the phone, text messages and certain other apps. When people call or text you while the app is activated, auto-response voicemails and text messages are sent, letting them know that you will get back to them later.

You can still use navigation, music and map apps while DriveSmart is activated. You can also make an emergency call from within the app.

DriveSmart has an Override button that disables the feature and unlocks the phone. Teens who are tempted to tap the Override button should know that parents can opt to receive a text message every time the Override button is used. Parents can also access a website that controls access to the app’s features and shows use of DriveSmart on the account for the past seven days.

DriveSmart Plus, available for $4.99 per month for up to ten phones on an account, activates the app automatically when the phone is in motion. DriveSmart Basic is free but requires that you activate the app manually and does not have parental control features.

My Test
T-Mobile provided me with a Samsung Exhibit 4G phone equipped DriveSmart Plus for testing. Having a 16 year-old daughter who will be taking her driving test soon, I was eager to test this app.

To use the app, I went to Settings => DriveSmart  and enabled the feature. The application lets you choose whether you want to allow calls using Bluetooth. You can also set the auto-response messages for voicemail and text. The default text message is:

“My calls and messages are being managed by DriveSmart while I focus on driving. I will get back to you when I’m no longer on the road. :)”

Sure enough, when the car was in motion, the app worked like a charm, showing a lock message on the home screen, complete with an override button. I couldn’t make or receive calls, check email or send or receive text messages while the screen was locked.

The Override button worked well too. A touch of the button opened the phone up to be used as normal.

DriveSmart is available from Google Play on these T-Mobile Android phones:

  • Samsung Exhibit 4g
  • LG Optimus T
  • Samsung Galaxy S 4G
  • Motorola CLIQ 2
  • Motorola DEFY
  • T-Mobile Sidekick 4G
  • Samsung Gravity Smart
  • LG Doubleplay

The DriveSmart Plus service is free for 30 days, then a monthly fee of $4.99 is charged which includes access to the premium features (such as automatic activation and parental controls) for up to ten phones on an account. DriveSmart Basic is free.

Are you concerned about texting and driving? Do you think DriveSmart would be helpful to make teens safer drivers? Let us know in the Comments section below!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Harleena Singh
June 11, 2012 at 7:09 am

Wonderful indeed!

i think this might be just the answer and cure for teens who just can’t do without using their cell phones while driving, which can turn fatal at times.

I specifically like the feature that locks up things so that you really can’t message or call till you lower your speed, something that will keep the teens on hold. This in itself would reduce accidents and be a life saver, and all for a small cost.

I am lucky that ways, as my kids have been trained to keep their cellphones off while they drive so – so far all is good and clear. But yes, if the need arises this would be helpful indeed.

Thanks for sharing and letting us know about this wonderful applications. :)
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 11, 2012 at 9:24 am

Hi Harleena, Yes, my daughter swears that she won’t text while driving. She certainly knows the dangers. But the lure of the phone is tempting. She doesn’t have her driver’s license yet so it isn’t an issue for now. But soon I will be faced with this issue. Do I trust her or do I get this app for her?

If parent are having difficulties with their kids texting while driving, this app should be a must-have to increase safety for their kids and other drivers on the road.
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Betsy Cross June 11, 2012 at 7:10 am

Hi Carolyn!

My daughter texts while driving…I think. My gut says that she’ll tell me she doesn’t even though she does. She’s an adult-20. But I still feel responsible to her and other drivers on the road.
But, even if she were a minor, I don’t own a cellphone. I’m wondering if you can manage the app. from your computer? I know, I’d have to be waiting for messages all day, but it would be nice to know. I love this concept. My children are still in the “I’m immortal” stage and it would be horrible to have them get a wake-up call via an accident of their own making!!
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 11, 2012 at 9:19 am

Hi Betsy, Yes, I feel the same way. It’s tough to think about the dangers that can come to our kids, but it’s also great when we can take preventative steps.

You can access controls from a website,, assuming you’re the owner of the account. You don’t need to have a cell phone to check on how DriveSmart is being used, but it’s handy to have a cell phone because then you can receive a text message when the app is disabled.
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Leslie June 11, 2012 at 9:02 am

Ok, this is great! What is the app for the i-phone?

Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 11, 2012 at 9:11 am

Hi Leslie, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! Unfortunately, there is no similar app for the iPhone, according to this Houston Chronicle article: No elegant technical fixes for distracted driving. If a developer or carrier were able to create such an app, I’m certain it would be a best-seller.

Ruth Zive June 11, 2012 at 3:37 pm

I would buy it! There is an opportunity there for sure for an enterprising app developer!

June 11, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Time to get the Tribe together and pool our resources. ;) I am only partially kidding. This is a great idea and I would love to see it developed further.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 12, 2012 at 8:05 am

Hello Jack, I agree, this would be a great app for the iPhone and all other phones. The more drivers who are safe on the road the better for all of us!
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Mike Maynard June 11, 2012 at 10:10 am

Hi Carolyn,

This is a good idea and could save lives. I’m not sure how popular it will be though. I often see drivers using mobile phones, they are a menace. I admit to taking photos while driving yesterday, I didn’t use the view finder and there was no one else close to me on the road! I was doing a series of photos on transport! I still need a photo of a double decker bus…
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 12, 2012 at 8:08 am

Hi Mike, Now I know how you got those pictures of roads. Perhaps you need DriveSmart for your camera?

Pictures of double decker buses are always interesting. I think the UK is the only place where public buses are a tourist attraction! :-)
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Bill Dorman
June 11, 2012 at 8:19 pm

This sounds like a very ‘smart’ app indeed; especially when you have young teen drivers. Sounds like you are sold on it………

Good info.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 12, 2012 at 8:10 am

Hi Bill, Yes, I am sold on it. I would love it if DriveSmart were standard on all phones! The more people who use DriveSmart, the safer the roads will be.
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Allyson Stewart June 12, 2012 at 8:13 am

Hi, Carolyn

Another great find. Thanks for sharing it. It’s too bad we need an app like this, not just for teens, but for anyone who texts while driving. With that being said, I am glad DriveSmart is available! I hope other providers jump in and add this feature too. (Do you know if any providers other than T-Mobile have something similar?) Now we can drive a little more safely. I guess the Override option is needed, but wish it were left off. It’s good that it notifies someone whenever it’s turned off though, for accountability.

Wonderful info to know about. Thank you! See you again soon, and have a great day.

Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 13, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Hi Allyson, You’re right, this app is handy for anyone who is tempted to text while driving. Tonight a car passed us and my girls noticed that the driver (an adult) was texting and driving. Too bad she didn’t have DriveSmart!

I don’t know of any other carriers who offer such an app. I wish that this were standard on all cell phones.

Thanks for stopping by, Allyson. Always great to see you here at The Wonder of Tech! :-)
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Bruce Sallan June 12, 2012 at 9:08 pm

We’ll have a parent controlled app that WILL work…if not Drive Smart, it’ll be another. THIS is my problem too – so I’ll install in on my own phone! Now, I like to think it’s okay just to look at my phone when I’m stopped at a light. BS…note to self – BS!
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 13, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Hi Bruce, Good point. If you find yourself tempted by your phone, you may want to install it on your own phone. I can see DriveSmart also being used by businesses whose employees drive while on the job. An employer could get notified if the Override button were used. That’s great incentive not to text while driving!
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Jens P. Berget
June 15, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Hi Carolyn,

DriveSmart seems to be an awesome app. I’ve seen so many recless drivers lately, that are texting while driving and to me that’s just insane. I’m a fairly bad driver, meaning that I am not comfortable driving a car, so I always focus on the driving and not doing anything other than driving, but I’ve seen people even reading the newspaper while driving and I can’t believe that there aren’t more accidents where I live in Norway (because there aren’t that many).

At first I thought that DriveSmart would have a major problem that kids would just turn it off, but if the parents will receive a message when they do turn it off, then the problem is more or less solved :)

Great app, and I’ll be sure to find a Norwegian one when my kids get old enough to drive (in Norway it’s 18 years old, and my daughter isn’t 9 yet, so hopefully by the time she turns 18 there’s a Norwegian version of DriveSmart).
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr June 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Hi Jens, I was just talking to a Wonder of Tech reader today who wants to get DriveSmart for her kids. I agree with you, there are plenty of adults who could use it too. I wish DriveSmart was standard on all mobile phones!

I hope the feature comes to Norway soon. T-Mobile is a German company so maybe they have it in Europe already?
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