For many teens, one of the most exciting times in their lives is when they drive by themselves for the first time. Not only is it a rite of passage declaring their burgeoning independence, but it is a milestone marking how much their parents have grown to trust them. Yet, for many parents, as exciting as this first solo drive is, it’s still nerve-racking, as are the drives that come after it.
But, just because your child is driving alone, that doesn’t mean that you can’t supervise their behavior. There are all sorts of devices and services available to help you track your teen’s driving. Some of them are built-in, and some can be installed after you purchase a car.
Teen Driving Is Growing More Hazardous
You might think that tracking your teen is unnecessary, and you might be right. But in 2014, over 2,000 teens aged 16 to 19 were killed in motor vehicle crashes, and over 200,000 were treated for injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, teenage drivers have the highest crash risk per mile driven.
One reason for this relates to their inexperience coupled with their natural tendency to behave impulsively. To help teens build their experience and driving skill set, each state, as well as the capital, has graduated driver licensing laws in place. Teens are restricted to driving in low-risk environments until they obtain a full license. But, even with this system in place, teens, like all drivers, are still subject to the temptations of driving while intoxicated or distracted.
With regard to teen alcohol use and driving, many parents might be quick to say, “Not my kid,” but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that alcohol played a role in more than 1 in 4 fatal crashes involving underage drivers.
Cell phone use is even more prevalent among teen drivers. When the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analyzed 1,700 videos of teen driving, in the last 6 seconds before a crash, distraction, most commonly in the form of cell phone use, was a factor in nearly 60 percent of moderate-to-severe teen crashes. In fact, in more than half of the rear-end collisions recorded, teens using a cell phone while driving were so distracted that they failed to react at all before the impact.
By using monitoring technology and explaining to your child what you expect to see (or not see) when they drive, you can create an ongoing dialogue around safe driving behaviors. What’s more, you can help prevent your teen from getting into an accident, keeping them safe and your car insurance rates down.
Tracking System Features
Many of the new vehicles sold in the last four years come equipped with different types of devices and services to track your teen’s driving behavior, explains Caroll Lachnit, director of content for Edmunds.com. Some features include:
- Geofencing. Alerts you via text or email when the vehicle crosses a physical boundary.
- Destination Alerts. Alerts you via text or email when the vehicle arrives at a preset destination (e.g., your child’s school).
- Speed Limits. Limits the vehicle’s top speed. Even if the driver tries to accelerate beyond that speed, this setting will prevent them from doing so.
- Volume Limits. Prevents the driver from increasing the car’s volume above a certain limit. Depending on your device or service, parents may also be able to block explicit radio stations.
- Do-Not-Disturb Mode. Diverts the driver’s incoming phone calls to voicemail and holds all text messages for later viewing.
If you are on the market for a new car, keep in mind that a tracking system may not be included in the make and model you’re interested in, even if it is a new vehicle. And even if it is, it may not have all the features you’re interested in and may require an additional fee or monthly subscription to activate it.
GPS-enabled tracking devices can be plugged into your car’s diagnostic port, which is typically found under the dashboard, by the driver’s left knee. Consumer Reports found that the three models they tested in 2014 all worked well on vehicles built after 1996. Since that report, many more devices have come on the market, including Zubie, Mastrack, MobiCoPilot, MotoSafety and Delphi Connect. These devices all work the same basic way, although some have a few different bells and whistles.
Each is controlled via a website where you can set geographic driving limits (such as a geofence) for the driver and view a map that shows the vehicle’s location and route. If the car crosses a geographic boundary, exceeds a set speed, or breaks any other limit you’ve set, the devices will send you an e-mail or a text (or both) to notify you. Most also come with a mobile app for use with a smartphone or tablet.
Wondering if your child can just disconnect the device? You’ll receive an alert if they do, or if someone decides to reconnect a disconnected device.
Another device, Drive Cam, is actually a video camera used to monitor the teen directly, rather than the car. You place the camera on the windshield behind the rear view mirror where it films your teen as they drive. The device records risky maneuvers and alerts the driver by flashing lights that change colors. Parents can then watch the video with their teen and discuss what they’ve seen.
According to research from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, this can have a positive impact on teen’s driving behavior: teens who received an alert when they engaged in risky driving along with feedback from their parents changed their behavior immediately, whereas teens who received an alert but no feedback did not.
Monitoring devices can be a great tool in helping you further educate your teen on being a safe driver. And they can be used to monitor anyone else whose driving you’re concerned about, such as an aging relative or a nanny.
Disclaimer: This article is meant for information purposes only. The Hartford does not endorse or have any association with the products and/or services referenced.