New Tech Provides Parents Help in Guiding Teen Drivers

Dec 17, 2015 • Automotive, Automotive, Gadgets
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According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, not only are teen drivers nearly three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers over age 19, teen drivers age 16-17 are nearly twice as likely as teen drivers age 18-19 to be involved in a fatal crash. Yet, it somewhat defeats the purpose of getting them a license if mom or dad has to sit next to them every time they are behind the wheel.

Parents are increasingly turning to high tech solutions to help give their teens much needed independence while keeping them safer behind the wheel. As a bonus, when parents receive an auto insurance quotes comparison, they find that using some of these safety enhancing technologies can also lower their rates.

High Tech Monitoring Tools

A combination of diverse modern technologies have merged to give birth to the field of telematics. This field combines telecommunications, GPS and other technologies to enable real time reporting on vehicle usage metrics that was not previously possible. Simba Technologies provided a leap forward in this field when they made OLAP reporting available for familiar tools, like Excel. Car companies, insurance companies and start-ups are all providing options for concerned parents interested in keeping a virtual eye on Little Johnny behind the wheel.

Tools from Car Companies

Car companies are getting in on the trend by installing on-board technology or adding new services.

Ford’s MyKey: Available on most late model Ford vehicles, this feature gives parents the power to program a second key. Using this programmed key tells the vehicle to set specific restrictions while in use, such as placing various controls on use of the radio, encouraging seat belt use and giving the “low fuel” warning earlier.

Hyundai’s BlueLink: Available on most late model Hundai vehicles, this embedded telematics system empowers parents to set a speed limit and determine a geofence that restricts where their teen can go. For an additional fee, smartphone apps can be added onto the system to allow parents to monitor their teen’s driving.

GM’s Family Link: This is a new OnStar service. For an additional $3.99 per month, parents can access features that let them find their car on a map or send text alerts when their teen driver arrives at their intended destination.

Tools from Insurance Companies

Insurance companies aren’t just using new technology to offer insurance quotes online, they are also using new technology to help teens arrive alive and learn to drive better.

USAA’s License+: This is more than just a telematics plug-in. It is a free 100 hour coaching program to help new drivers improve their driving with data-driven feedback. It records trip information, such as vehicle speed, location, acceleration, braking, and time of day. It also offers services, such as 24/7 crash response and tonal feedback from the device on driver actions, such as braking too hard, so they can work on improving their performance.

State Farm’s Drive Safe & Save: This program empowers parents to see vehicular data such as braking, acceleration and turning speeds. It is available through GM’s OnStar service, Ford’s SYNC subscription, or through a plug-in device called InDrive.

Allstate’s Drivewise and Star Driver: Drivewise is available as either a plug-in or free app for Android or iOS that provides reports on braking, mileage, speed, braking and hours driven. Star Driver is a free mobile app that helps reinforce good driving habits. Parents set parameters, such as top driving speed and how long their teen can be gone. When those parameters are violated, parents receive a text message notifying them of relevant information. A system of points and badges provides positive reinforcement for good driving behaviors.

Smart Phone Apps

The days, most people have a smartphone. These are sometimes a driving hazard, but new apps are helping to reduce hazards.

Some phone companies, such as Sprint (DriveFirst) and AT&T (DriveMode), are offering phone apps that can block text messages and phone calls while your teen is driving. Other features can include parental notifications regarding driving speed, if the app has been disabled, or an online means to monitor when the app is in use.

Canary: This free app reports to information to parents regarding teen speeds, curfew violations and travel outside of a predetermined geographic area. The Android version offers full functionality. The iOS version offers limited functionality.

MamaBear: This app is fully functional on Android devices, with limited functionality on other devices. It provides parental notification for arrival times, excess speed and other data.

These services can allow concerned parents to look out for teens and help them learn to drive better during a critical and dangerous time. Helping teens live to drive another day makes everyone on the road safer and gives parents peace of mind.

Alex Espenson

Alex Espenson is a technology writer with a passion for home automation, tech security, and wearable smart devices.

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