Teenage Drivers: Should You Monitor Their Driving?

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D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook...

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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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For families with children in the United States, there comes a time that can bring parents increased financial burdens. And for the teenagers involved, it can often lead to years-long countdowns to marking what many consider the most important day in their lives thus far.  We’re of course referring to when children start driving.

There are so many economic variables that come into play: will the teenager have their own car? Will that automobile be new or used? Who’s paying for it? Or will you buy yourself a new car? If they are sharing a family car, when would it be available? Is the teenager going to be responsible for their own financial considerations, such as having to pay for their own gas, insurance or even the car itself? Have they completed all the requirements of the state you reside in to obtain a driver’s permit?

Question after question that families will have to answer and budget for. And even after all those are answered and the soon-to-be-christened driver is added to the family insurance policy, there is still the question of how that teen will perform while on the road.

It probably doesn’t come as a shock to find that teenagers are considered high risk drivers in car insurance calculations. And that there is solid statistical evidence to back up that high risk designation, compiled in the annual car accident fatality reports collected by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

When we speak of monitoring a teenager’s driving, there’s a potentially infinite level of possibilities that come to mind, depending upon each family’s situation. We can’t answer the question of if you should, but we do know you could, and we suspect we know what the answer of any responsible parent would be.

A number of sub-questions immediately come to mind. If you’re monitoring your teenager’s driving behaviors and locations, aren’t you violating their privacy?  Are you violating the idea of trust between parent and child by monitoring your child’s driving? Or are you just being a responsible, caring and rational parent?

For most people, teenagers and extreme privacy advocates excluded in some circumstances, the answers to all three questions will be a resounding “yes!”

We’re not talking about car insurance company programs that use a data event recorder (also called a black box) to record driving habits, although if you do believe you’ve raised an especially gifted and good teenaged driver, you might want to consider such a program. And don’t forget the myriad of other discounts that are available to families with teen drivers: special family plans, good student discounts, hybrid car discounts, low annual mileage discounts and more.

So, what are we talking about? We’re talking about monitoring your teenager’s driving with the use of a little technology, GPS. So many devices are now GPS aware that parents have a lot of options to monitor these younger drivers.

One car insurance company in the United States offers a GPS-enabled insurance product that not only lowers your rates like the Progressive Snapshot, but also allows you to track your teenager’s location, driving speeds and more. You can even set the program, called Teensurance, to send you email or text message alerts if your teen is driving after curfew, is speeding, or more.

An even more intrusive system is being offered by American Family Insurance that not only offers everything above, but that also identifies and captures video of unsafe driving events and behaviors such as hard braking, taking curves at too fast of speeds, swerving, sudden acceleration and collisions.

But if you’re happy with your current insurance company or just recently have used our online quote system, you can monitor your teen when they’re on the road with a number of products that are not tied to your car insurance policy.

The first is probably in your teenager’s hands all the time. Their beloved mobile phone that usually comes equipped with the blurred fingers of power texting can be used to track them. AT&T, Sprint and Verizon offer programs that offer not only the ability to track teens or younger children, but also any member of the household.

While the access offered by cell phones is good, you’ll also have data from when they’re not driving to sift through. They also require the teenager to have their phone in their possession, and it isn’t uncommon for them to be forgotten on occasion.

There are also many third party companies that offer GSP monitoring with car-installed black boxes. Some offer tons of options, such as everything from passive tracking to full-blow realtime tracking, with full integration with web-based technologies like Google Maps.

So…what are your answers? Should you monitor your teenager’s driving? And will you?

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