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How can mobile phone apps help new drivers?

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Phone apps can help you to learn how to be a better driver, get you used to driving alone and even keep you safer. Just so long as you're not tempted to check your messages while you're driving, mobiles have a lot to offer new drivers.

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Learning to drive

When learning to drive you need to absorb a lot of new information in order to pass the crucial theory test.

There are lots of books and websites to help you, but how about learning with your mobile?

It certainly helps to make those hours spent on public transport waiting to get your first car go a bit faster.

There's a clever version of the Hazard Perception Test for Android and iPhones: it works just like the one you take in your actual test (with videos of a car driving down streets) and it's definitely a good idea to get some practice in.

The Hazard Perception Test is a bit like a computer game, but instead of clicking to collect bonuses, you have to watch closely and click when you see potential problems.

There are also apps to try out the Driving Theory Test by answering the multiple-choice questions over and over again until you're confident you've memorised the right answers.

The theory test isn't actually as difficult as it first seems, but some of the questions can be sneaky so you need to make sure you've read them correctly.

On the road

Once you've passed your test, you face that milestone of heading out on the road without supervision.

This can be daunting, especially when you first take journeys to places you're not so familiar with.

The AA has a mobile route planner that works like a sat nav, allowing you to map out your journeys, avoiding certain roads and warning you about travel hotspots.

It will calculate the journey time, estimated cost of petrol and let you save favourite locations, getting you used to not having the instructor to guide you.

This type of route-planning app can be a huge help for a new driver: if using it while driving, install a phone-holder that allows you to safely check the screen while keeping your eyes on the road.

As this app shows the route by a map or provides step-by-step journey details, it can be very useful.

And new drivers need to avoid as much stress as possible when they're learning the ways of the road, so an app called Waze that launched last year is a top choice.

 Based on the input of users, it allows drivers to keep track of accidents, learn about speed monitoring hotspots, congestion and other road hazards. It's worth checking before you head out (it is disabled while driving) and if you come across any incidents you can let other drivers know about them too.

Driving safely

Learning about how different distractions can affect you is a good start: Dangers of Distracted Driving is an educational app designed for new drivers that outlines different risks and consequences.

This acts as a good complement to the Hazard Perception test, with its focus on how a driver's behaviour can put them at risk.

It's pretty obvious that you shouldn't be using your phone to text or read messages while driving, but unfortunately some new drivers are so used to having their mobiles to hand that they need some tools to stop them from using them when they're behind the wheel.

A number of mobile apps have been designed to give parents of teenage drivers some peace of mind - by preventing their children from using their phones behind the wheel.

Turning off our mobiles isn't practical, we don't know when we might need them in an emergency - knowing a potentially important message or call is coming in is fine, just so long as you park up safely to take it!

There are a number of apps, including TextArrest, which stops texts and emails being written or read while driving, by cleverly detecting when a car is travelling at more than 5 mph.

It comes with a pretty hefty price tag (approximately £5.99 a month), but you would probably only need to use it for a short time.

Even more advanced are the apps that allow parents to track their teenagers' driving behaviour and phone usage, such as Telenav.

Jenny Simpson writes for Envirofone.com, who recycle mobile phones

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