Parents don’t want to hear the numbers. But, the fact is driving accidents are the number one cause of death among teenagers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Disease Control reports, “In 2016, 2,433 teens in the United States ages 16–19 were killed and 292,742 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes.” That works out to sixteen fatalities a day and 8.4% of all motor vehicle injuries.
You hear a lot about texting while driving as a major cause of distracted driving among of teen driver accidents. They’re still kids and can be reckless and careless under peer pressure. And, too many will drive under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
Parents, of course, can model better-driving behavior themselves. They can invest in driver training for their teens, and they should regularly discuss the risks involved with family members. Still, technology, insurance companies, and safety advocates have been coming up with tools to help parents monitor their adolescent drivers.
Here are six nifty gadgets you might try:
1. Volkswagen’s Car-Net App provides all the connectivity a driver could want. It streams your music, provides GPS directions and mapping, and makes and receives calls. You can even reach Google Assist for coaching and info as you go.
It is Android-configured but compatible with Android smartphones or iPhones and devices. Connected to your smartphone, you can monitor your teen’s driving. It lets you program alerts for driving boundaries whenever your teen takes the car out for a spin. If and when the teen breaks the rules, your phone lets you know.
VW has added new features this year to alert you by text or email if the teen is driving beyond a programmed curfew. And, there’s a valet alert to warn you if a valet has driven off with the car.
2. Hyundai’s Blue Link packs a lot of tech into its system of safeguards. Now, it is standard equipment on new Hyundai models, free for the first three years. It does all the things you expect from your internet center. Owners of the new Elantra GT and Sonata can also remotely adjust the rear defroster and heated side mirrors.
But, when your teen is on the road, you’ll find some peace of mind with the collision notification and SOS emergency contact. With the Blue Link connected app downloaded, you can work through your smartphone, some smartwatches, Amazon Alexa, and Google Home. That lets you tell the car to warm up, map an address, and more. As important to parents, Blue Link will let you reduce teen risks by monitoring them, setting the car’s speed, offering two-way communications, programming the hours of operation, and more. This system not only notifies the parent by text or email, but it also flashes notices on the dashboard.
3. Ford’s MyKey technology was the first. Ford pioneered the inclusion of connective technology a decade ago. It has since driven innovation in driver monitoring devices. It brought music streaming, GPS technology, service reminders, and phone calls into your call.
It still notifies you about your seatbelts and lets you customize the maximum speed. But, now it does even more. You can customize the speed settings for different drivers, but now you can prevent your teen from disabling the settings. They also cannot disable the rear view camera or blind spot warning systems. You can set it to comply with geographic boundaries and give an early warning about fuel shortage to keep the teen from running out of gas.
MyKey also allows parents to screen explicit language from Sirius Satellite Radio and control the volume. And, you can trigger its Do Not Disturb feature to simply stop phone calls and text messages from displaying while the teen drives.
4. Chevrolet’s Teen Driver technology is certainly competitive. The GM Colorado, Cruze, Malibu, Suburban, Tahoe, and Traverse all now include Teen Driver. Like the other technologies, Teen Driver will limit the vehicle’s speed. If the speed is breached, the driver will get a visual and audio notice. It will also let parents control the radio volume and mute the radio until everyone is buckled up.
Chevy’s Teen Driver has an added advantage. It retains data on the teen’s driving habits: anti-lock brake incidents, forward collision warnings, maximum speed reached, miles driven, speeding warnings, tailgating notices, and more. Then, at your request, it issues an in-vehicle report you can use as a basis for a conversation on driving skills and behaviors.
5. TrueMotion Family is an app available through Apple iTunes and Google Play stores. Easily downloaded to your smartphone, it makes you a teen’s backseat driver. The app helps you set curfew, geographical, and speed parameters. You’ll know immediately if the driver breaks the rules.
Of course, you can manage the app to monitor any member of the family. It offers location sharing so you know where your teen is. Every time the teen driver gets behind the wheel, they’ll get a driving report card to coach toward better driving habits. That report card will list how many times the teen used the cell phone while driving. And, it includes emergency assistance 24/7 if the driver needs help.
6. DriveScribe, available for free download on Amazon, introduces some engaging gamification to teen driving. But, you can also download it to iOS or Android phones. Using GPS technology, DriveScribe “knows” where the car is at all times. If the driver breaks the programmed settings, it triggers an alert.
DriveScribe can block emails, phone calls, and text messages. Rather than be rude, it will notify calling and texting family and friends you are driving and will get back to them later. And, when those families and friends acknowledge the teen as a smart driver, the driver earns points.
What’s different about this approach, it that the app rewards good driving habits. At the end of each outing, the driver gets a report with a score reporting excessive speed, failure to stop at stop sign, hard braking, heavy acceleration, and other driving infractions. It compares the teen to other drivers across the country. Drive without any problems reported, and the teen driver earns points redeemable for gift cards for Amazon, Domino’s Pizza, Sports Authority, and so on. Points and rewards engage any teenager.
Concerned about your teen’s driving?
Of course, you worry when your teen takes the car out of the garage. It will take time before you’re are comfortable with it. These tech devices and apps largely change behavior by disciplining, warning, and deprivation. And, there is more you should consider.
Things go much easier for you and your adolescent if you have a legitimate basis to discuss the pros and cons of driving habits. Parents must get their driving act together, too.
- Safety first: You must lead by buckling your safety belt first and waiting for all passengers, front seat and rear, to buckle in.
- Pocket the phone: You cannot expect your children to stop calling or texting if you haven’t stopped. If the phone is vital to your business, you can work with hands-free phones with enough driving practice.
- Watch your speed: Parents are not entitled to speed, make hard turns, rush yellow lights, or roll through stop signs. You must use turn signals, watch lane switching, and highway merging.
- Stay sober: If your teen sees you driving home after a few drinks or a few joints, they’ll think they can handle it, too. They need to know they are not permitted to drive while intoxicated or with other drivers who are. Make a deal with them that you will pick them up anytime and anywhere if they think it is necessary.
It might be a time for a self-assessment before you draw lines in the sand for your teens. Consumer Reports suggests creating a contract between parents and children. It means making a deal with your teen, offering something in exchange for their cooperation and honesty.
It can be a delicate balance, and you might have to customize deals with your different teens. But, there is mutual benefit if the contract is a means to assuring the teen driver’s well-being, your peace of mind, and building trust when it works.
Any contract with your children should be collaborative, clear, and uncompromising if broken. It works best with a written set of rules and a list of consequences if they face if violate them. You know that the adolescent brain is not fully formed. You can appreciate the pressures they feel from peers, and that life is a matter of learning from mistakes.
But, as long as you have control of the vehicle, you have the authority needed to rule any negotiation on terms and consequences. You can restrict driving privileges by taking away permission for weekends or important teen events. You can also withdraw all vehicle use. And, that’s where these nifty gadgets can help you to coach rather than punish.