5 High-tech Solutions for Teen Driving Safety

Helping your teen navigate learning to drive can be tricky—but these high-tech solutions can help you both along the way.

teen off to college
Helping keep teens safe is a tough job.

Handing the keys over to your new teen driver can no doubt be a terrifying milestone. We know the stats: the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that “people ages 15-24 represent only 14 percent  of the U.S. population. However, they account for 30 percent ($19 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28 percent ($7 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among females.” The CDC also noted that in 2011, “seven teens ages 16 to 19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries.” And, DoSomething.org noted that a staggering “1 in 5 of 16-year-old drivers has an accident within their first year of driving.” So, we did a little investigating to see what technology may be out there to lend a hand. Turns out, from simple startups to Ford Motors, people want to see these unfortunate numbers reduced — so they’ve been developing some interesting tech to help you keep up with your teen, teach her to be a good driver, and correct her mistakes along the way. Fancy, huh?

The Tech

1. Automatic’s License+ Program

If you keep up with us here at Quoted, you might have seen our review a while back on Automatic. Recently, this startup has launched a program to complement their OBD-II plugin device (think Snapshot by Progressive) called License+ to help parents and teens navigate the tall task that is learning to drive. With a bluetooth plugin, parents and teens can track their drives down to abrupt accelerations and failures to stop completely at a stop sign. Teens can download the app and receive rewards such as “gold medals” for completing successful drives with their driving coach or driving successfully home at night.

2. Ford MyKey

MyKey is software program built-in to certain Ford vehicles that allows parents to control—at least somewhat— what teens do in their vehicles, while keeping track of their whereabouts. For example, parents can set limits on their teen’s top speeds and radio volume. In addition, parents can turn on chimes that ring when teens surpass speeds of 45, 55, and 65 miles per hour. Revisiting radio controls, parents also have the ability to block certain radio stations available on satellite. Other controls include setting alerts when teens haven’t buckled up, rendering the radio unusable until they do so—which, to us, actually seems like an appropriately motivating threat! Parents can also set a low-fuel alert that will notify the driver at 75 miles instead of 50 miles to empty. In addition, driving aids such as blind spot, park aid, and traction control cannot be deactivated.

3. Guardian Tracking System

Operating mainly on the GPS end of things, Guardian Tracking System offers various location tracking programs, one of them being TeenTrack. TeenTrack allows you to rest assured, knowing the “visibility of your new driver’s travel locations, stops, speed, and provides replay of travel routes for any period of time that you select.” TeenTrack allows those “teachable moments” with access to historical driving data, in addition to real-time information on where your teen driver has been, where they are going, and how they got there.

4. Drive Cam

DriveCam is the flagship project of a tech company Lytx, which uses research and subsequent data to provide programs such as DriveCam. The program was originally created to understand causes of auto accidents by implementing a “video event recorder to capture and correct risky driving habits.” It has historically been popular among delivery truck fleets to protect companies against false accident allegations. This tech solution is also, however, being utilized by parents to understand problem areas in their teen’s driving, allowing them to teach ways to improve their driving skills.

5. Drive Pulse 

Drive Pulse, a startup founded by twenty-two year old Stanford grad Giancarlo Daniele, has created an always-on app that manages your cars (whether that be for family or business), via another OBD plugin. The app features four main functions including bad driving alerts, parking location (so you don’t lose your car in those pesky two-thousand capacity Ikea parking lots), emergency locator, and mileage tracking. The app sends you text messages and push notifications to keep you informed. These messages remind you to fill up a low gas tank, let you know when cars have departed from and arrived to specific locations, and alert you when speeding or idling. This app allows parents to not only be informed, but to let their teens in on their driving habits as well.

What Teens Have to Say

While many of these apps allow for parents to be ultra-informed with tracking devices and monitoring systems, many have received criticism — from teens, in particular. Upon reviewing the devices, many teens report feeling a lack of trust and even creeped on by mom and dad. In an NPR article addressing these tracking devices, one Kenyon College student whose family tried out Drive Pulse reported feeling that the device “reduces communication to someone stalking the other.” Still, many families note that when utilized in the right way with proper care, the devices were extremely helpful in the beginning stages of their young driver’s experience. One USA Today article talked to a family using a plugin device whose daughter was apparently, at first, very much against the idea of her parents tracking the details of her driving. However, after giving the green light for insurance savings reasons (about 25 percent annually), the family reports that the tech paved the way to engage in conversation about her maturation as a driver:

“It brought us together to have the conversation about it, so I could say, I notice your top speed is creeping up a little bit. You should probably watch your step a little bit.”

If you decide, that one of these high-tech options is right for your family, there are a few things to keep in mind. Research shows that if nobody is looking at the data, having any sort of tracking system is irrelevant. In other words, it takes more than just having a fancy tech solution to produce an A+ teen driver. A Time article explains:

“Whether or not parents install a device, they need to set rules, show love and concern, and work collaboratively with their kids. […] An “authoritative” parenting style, in which the parent says ‘I’m monitoring your driving because I want to help you be a better driver,’ produces safer drivers.”

What do you think of these high-tech ways to keep teens safe on the road? Would you and your family try one of them out?