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5 smart phone apps for a safer, healthier, more economical holiday season

Smart phone apps are available by the millions, with more coming all the time.

But research shows that Americans have a limited appetite for them. On average, according to Nielsen, U.S. smart phone users accessed 26.7 apps per month in fourth-quarter 2014, or “relatively flat over the last couple of years.” Seventy percent of total usage comes from the top 200 apps.

With those statistics in mind, we’re compiled a short list of free apps that could make your life less hectic, a little safer and healthier, and more economical during the sometimes harried holiday season. (Paid upgrades for some of these apps are available.)

SaferRide: During Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s in 2014, Pennsylvania drivers impaired by drugs or alcohol accounted for 1,039 crashes and 35 fatalities. Each year, drunken drivers in the United States kill more than 10,000 people.

That’s why the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania State Police and Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board are encouraging use of the SaferRide app (available for Android and Apple devices).

SaferRide gives users three easy choices: Get Taxi, which summons a list of local taxi services; Call Friend, which connects to a predetermined list of contacts; Where Am I?, which places the user on a map using GPS.

Waze: This Google-owned app is billed as the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app. It gives users the opportunity to join other drivers in sharing real-time traffic and road information, saving time and gas on a daily commute or a trip to grandmother’s house.

Waze can calculate a route of up to 1,000 miles, so it is suggested that longer travel routes be split into smaller sections to ensure greater accuracy.

Santa’s Bag: Santa seems to have endless capacity in his bag, but you probably have to stick to a budget when it comes to holiday gift-giving.

Available for iPhones, Santa’s Bag allows you to plan gifts, ideas, wish lists and preferences for each of your recipients. You can set and track your progress against a budget for a recipient or an occasion as a whole.

GasBuddy: Described as the leading provider of retail fuel pricing information and data, GasBuddy updates fuel prices at nearly 130,000 gas locations in the United States and Canada.

The app allows users to search for gas by city or ZIP Code and, within those parameters, by price, distance or fuel grade.

If you become a GasBuddy member (not required), you can earn points for reporting gas prices.

RunKeeper: Eat, drink and be merry might be words to live by for many of us during the holidays, but exercise should not be overlooked. The RunKeeper app is a fun way to challenge yourself to stay fit between bites and sips.

RunKeeper tracks your running route using GPS. Just tap “Start Free Run” and start moving. At five-minute increments, a voice tells you your distance and per-minute pace. At the conclusion of your run, you can review your total time, mileage and pace.

It’s important to remember that smart phone use – like texting, drinking and eating, using GPS – is a form of distracted driving.

So don’t drink and drive – or get distracted by apps while you drive.