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A mobile phone app could stop young drivers from checking their smartphones while at the wheel.

Romex has developed an app which uses the phone’s GPS system to determine whether a car is travelling at 4mph or more.

If it believes the car is in use, the device is locked – disabling calls, texts, emails and social media.

Romex already provides the service to companies that want to track their fleet, but is now eyeing the consumer market, according to Auto Express.

It will be specifically targeted at younger drivers and could launch later this month.

Sales director Steve Arscott told the website: “It’s called Distraction Prevention. We’re approaching younger drivers because they’re the ones most likely to be glued to their phones.”

The paid-for service will work in conjunction with an app called Guardian, which sends location information on young drivers to their parents.

Guardian also shows whether a driver has been speeding. Mr Arscott said: “We’re looking for insurance partners at the moment.

“One good incentive for a young driver to have it on their phone is they would get a rebate on their insurance policy.”

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Young Drivers are more likely to use their mobile phones while driving than older motorists, a survey suggests.

The poll for driving safety charity Brake found 49% of 17-24 year olds had been in work calls while on the road, compared with 17% for all age groups.

About 35% of young people said they had spoken to family, and 21% with friends – compared with 23% and 15% overall.

Brake asked about hand-held and hands-free calls. They are both a distraction “risking devastating crashes”, it said.

“It is a sobering thought that a significant number of these life-threatening distractions come from drivers’ own friends and family,” said Julie Townsend from the charity.

The survey questioned 1,000 drivers from across the UK on whether they had spoken on the phone while driving, hand-held or hands-free, in the last 12 months. If so, they were asked who they were talking to.

Using a hand-held phone while driving was made illegal in 2003. Using a hands-free kit is allowed but a driver can still be stopped if police believe they are being distracted.

Brake says that making calls hands-free is still a cause of distraction and are campaigning for it be banned.

The charity is advising drivers to put their phones on silent while driving, with their phone away from them. The safest way to make a call is to stop, they say.

According to an observational study by the Department for Transport last October, motorists who use phones are more likely to be texting or using social media than making calls.

Brake has also warned about the dangers of being tired while driving, saying that it is wise to break for at least 15 minutes every two hours.

When asked how often they driven for more than two hours without a break in the last 12 months, 8% said weekly or more, 16% once a month and 29% once a year.

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Apple has patented a system that would lock drivers out of their smartphones while on the move, in a bid to cut down on accidents caused by texting and other distracting features

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Apple has patented a system that would provide a “lock-out mechanism” to stop drivers texting or using other distracting functions of their smartphones while on the move.

The patent describes how a device could determine if it was moving by looking at data from GPS, phone towers or even images from the camera. Visual clues would enable the device to calculate if its owner was driving the car or merely a passenger, imposing limits in the former case but not the latter.

Algorithms would look for a steering wheel in close proximity to the camera, or search for the number of faces – only one visible person would indicate that the user must be the one driving. It could also differentiate between the interior of a car and a train carriage or seat on a bus, where safety features would be unnecessary.

The application even suggests that the accelorometer could be used to detect when an unscrupulous driver was tilting the phone so as to not reveal the steering wheel and evade the safety feature. Sensing the speed of travel would also prevent the limits from kicking-in if the user was just walking.

Apple says in the patent application, filed in 2008 but only published and granted this week, that texting while driving has become a “major concern” of the police, and cites a 2006 study which found that 80pc of crashes were caused by distractions such as applying makeup, eating and text messaging.

The patent also claims that it is “doubtful” that police can stop people texting while driving because it can be done on the lap and is harder to spot.

Other studies have shown that sending text messages while driving was as dangerous as being a quarter over the legal drink-drive limit. The road safety charity Brake says that texting increases the chance of a commercial driver crashing by 23 times, and slows reaction times by 35 per cent.

The first part of Apple’s suggestion would use the phone’s own hardware to determine if it was travelling above a certain speed, and then lock the owner out of certain functions such as text messaging. It further develops the idea by suggesting that the car itself, or perhaps just the key, could be modified to send a signal to the phone to shut down certain features.

The application says that such a feature could be “a significant selling point in the eyes of concerned parents, and it could lead to legislation that would require all handheld computing devices to disable texting while driving.”

There are several Android apps which aim to perform a similar function, but Apple’s tight controls on what apps can and cannot access on the iPhone’s hardware have largely prevented similar software from launching on the iOS platform.

Putting a black box into your car could save you a substantial amount of money on your premiums. We describe the six types of drivers who would benefit from the device

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Black box insurance, where premiums are based on your driving behaviour, is popular among young drivers trying to reduce the cost of cover, but motorists of other ages can also benefit.

This type of insurance is otherwise known as “telematics” cover, and involves a black box being professionally installed in your car. The box monitors how and when you drive and relays this information back to the insurer, which then calculates your premiums based on the data it has received.

Here are six types of driver who could benefit from having black box cover:

Young drivers

Young drivers aged between the ages of 17-24 are statistically the most likely to be involved in a car accident, which means premiums can be sky-high. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) drivers in this age group are three times more likely than drivers of other ages to be responsible for “catastrophic claims”.

Back box insurance enables insurers to tailor premiums to suit each individual based on their driving habits, rather than relying on statistics alone to determine the cost of their cover. So provided young drivers can demonstrate they are responsible motorists, premiums will be lower than they would be if they opted for conventional cover.

New drivers

If you’ve only recently passed your driving test, and therefore have limited experience on the roads, you will also be considered high risk by insurers, regardless of your age. Telematics insurance could help you pay cheaper premiums as premiums will be based on how and when you drive, so the safer you are, the lower your premiums will be.

Low mileage drivers

If you only drive a few miles every so often, it doesn’t make sense to pay the same insurance premiums as someone who drives 10,000 miles or more every year. Many black box policies allow you to choose exactly how many miles you’ll drive, and use this information to help work out your premium. If you don’t exceed this number, then you won’t have to pay any extra.

A spokesman for black box insurer Insurethebox said: “For those drivers who need to travel further, top up miles are available in bundles of 250, 500, 1,000 or 2,000 miles.”

Similarly, Coverbox’s “pay as you drive” scheme, also allows you to buy more miles if you underestimate your annual mileage.

Careful drivers

If you pride yourself on being a particularly safe driver, black box insurance could potentially reward you with lower premiums. For example, with black box cover from Ingenie, every three months your policy is reviews and a discount is applied if you’re driving well. Ingenie claims that 70pc of its customers have received a good driving discount.

The AA’s Drivesafe policy assesses how you anticipate traffic and follow the landscape, so the better you drive, the lower your premiums will be.

Slow drivers

Black box insurance is not for boy racers. You don’t have to crawl along the roads, but you must always stick within speed limits. Remember that speed can be assessed in other ways too. For example, if you take corners too sharply and are braking while doing so, this could work against you if you have a black box installed. Similarly, you’ll need to take care not to accelerate too fast away from traffic lights or to brake hard when you see a traffic jam in front of you.

Daytime drivers

Driving late at night or in the small hours is considered much riskier than driving during the daytime. This means drivers with black box insurance are likely to see premiums rise if they regularly drive at night, while some such as iKube and Co-op, have curfews so that if you drive late at night you could be fined or see premiums rise. If you tend only to drive during the day, then black box cover could be for you as you will be rewarded for driving during “low risk” periods.

Driving lessons, the test itself, buying and insuring a car all add to the expense, but there are ways to limit the damage

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Passing your driving test has long been seen as a rite of passage, but the rising cost of running a car is driving more and more young people off the roads. The Department for Transport’s recent National Travel Survey shows a sharp drop over the past 18 years in the number of young people holding a full driving licence. While in 1995, some 43% of 17- to 20-year-olds held a full driving licence, that has plunged to just 31%. The fall is sharpest among young men, where it has dropped from 51% to 30%, while the percentage of young women with a full driving licence has slipped from 36% to 31%. Over the same period the proportion of 21- to 29-year-olds with full driving licences has also fallen.

The main reason fewer young people are driving is cost, says Stephen Glaister, director at the RAC Foundation. “Younger people were hit disproportionately hard by the downturn. Even though employment is now rising, incomes are stagnant, and many are only in part-time work, and find running a car too expensive.”

Spiralling student debt and rising housing costs leave little money for driving lessons, at around £25 an hour, and the test itself. With the practical test costing up to £75, and the theory test adding another £31, the cost of buying a car is the least of the problems facing young drivers. In 1995 a five-year-old Ford Fiesta, a typical first car, cost £3,250, against £5,510 today, according to figures from motoring guide Glass’s. That is a rise of nearly 70%, almost exactly in line with the increase in average earnings over the period, says Andrew Jackson, head of analytics at Glass’s. “In real terms, the Fiesta isn’t any more expensive than it was in 1995, even though the materials, technology and manufacturing quality are incomparably better.”

Other motoring costs have accelerated sharply, according to the RAC Foundation’s UK Cost of Motoring Index. While the cost of living has risen 76% since 1995, as measured by the retail price index, the cost of maintaining a car has risen 140%, while petrol and oil costs have increased 145%. Meanwhile the cost of tax and insurance has soared by 170% since 1995, well over twice the rate of inflation. The average 17-year-old now pays a hefty £1,997 a year for motor insurance, according to figures from Towers Watson and comparison site Confused.com.

Here are some ways to make getting behind the wheel more affordable.

• Buy a small car

As a general rule, the less powerful your car is the less it is likely to cost to insure, says Lee Griffin, car insurance expert at GoCompare.com. “Young or inexperienced drivers should therefore look at cars with smaller engines as opposed to performance vehicles. But this isn’t the only factor they take into account. They will also look at its value, engine size, power-to-weight ratio, and availability of parts. These factors determine which insurance group the car will be in, and how much it will cost to insure.”

• Shop around

One in three car insurers wouldn’t cover a 17-year-old driver at all, while 10% wouldn’t cover anybody under 25, according to GoCompare.com. “All insurers rate drivers differently, and while some target older, more experienced drivers, others will price competitively for younger drivers, so shop around to make sure you’re getting the right cover at the best possible price.”

An online search for an 18-year-old motorist covering an eight-year-old Ford Fiesta Freedom with a 1.3 litre engine, with 10,000 annual mileage and a £250 excess, showed the cheapest premium at £2,917 a year from Carrot Car Insurance, a telematics-based insurer that targets younger drivers. Next was Hastings Essential, which quoted £4,129 a year. Insure Pink, 1st Central and Go Girl offered quotes ranging from £4,634 to £5,000 a year. Some insurers charged up to £9,000, while many didn’t quote at all.

• Get better qualified

You may be able to get a slightly lower premium if you have taken advanced driving courses such as Pass Plus or the advanced driving test from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM). If that 18-year-old had Pass Plus, for example, Hastings Direct would cover them for £2,240, but the next best quote was from Insure Pink at £4,147.

• Secure your vehicle

Fitting your car with an approved alarm, immobiliser and tracking device can make life harder for thieves, reducing the chance that you will make a claim for theft. “It helps if you can park off-road overnight, preferably in a locked garage or at least on a driveway, as your insurer may reduce your premiums accordingly,” says Kevin Pratt, car insurance expert at MoneySupermarket.com.

• Add an older driver to your policy

Adding an older, “safer” driver, such as a parent or relative, will cut the cost of your insurance policy, Pratt says. “You must list the person who drives the car most as the main driver, otherwise you may be accused of ‘fronting’. This is treated as insurance fraud and will lead to a minimum £300 fine plus six points on your licence. It will almost certainly cost more to get insurance in the future, if you can get it at all.”

• Try telematics (Blackbox)

Telematics technology can also help young motorists drive down their premiums. This involves fitting a gadget in your car that measures your speed, cornering, acceleration and braking, as well as your location and the time of day you drive. If the black box judges you to be a safe driver, your insurer should reward you with a lower premium. If you’re taking risks, however, your premium could increase.

A 17-year-old student living in Cardiff driving a two-year-old Ford Fiesta, with no claims or convictions, annual 7,000 mileage and a £250 excess, would typically pay £2,124 a year for standard insurance, but this would fall to £1,783 with Telematics, according to figures from Confused.com. That’s a saving of £341, or 16%. A 20-year-old with three-years’ no-claims bonus would typically see their premium fall from £780 to £601.

• Drive safely

If you’re a young driver with points on your licence or a recent insurance claim to your name, you’re in double trouble, says Pratt. “Driving with care is the name of the game. Points on a licence can easily add 10% to your insurance costs, so avoid speeding and other convictions.” Young drivers should avoid making insurance claims, so they can steadily build up a no-claims discount – this can knock up to 75% off the cost of cover after five years.

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It’s often imagined that young drivers have too much confidence and rush to complete their driver training in their eagerness to get on the roads.

However, a recent survey, taken from a sample of 2,000 drivers between the ages of 18 and 30, paints a different picture, with 62% of young drivers in favour of a minimum learning period.

Statistics show that many young drivers feel unequipped to drive safely and competently after passing their test, and many will go out of their way to avoid driving situations where they lack confidence.

Young Driver Survey Data

The report gives a unique insight into the opinions of Britain’s young drivers and shows that many of them feel totally unprepared for driving after passing their test. Yet young drivers themselves are rarely consulted about their driving experiences.

Although the driving test has been improved to better reflect real-life conditions on the roads, almost half of newly qualified drivers (48%) felt unprepared for motorway driving and around one in three (29%) were nervous about night-time driving and driving alone after passing their test.

Situations that young drivers admitting avoiding included motorway driving, driving in city centres and turning right at busy junctions.

In the survey, published in August 2013, one in four drivers who had had an accident believed that it might have been avoided if they had spent longer learning to drive. Despite this, amongst the young people consulted in the survey, one in five took less than three months to pass their driving test and 50% took less than six months to pass.

Written by: Janet Fisher

Dagenham

 

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