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, Catch & Release, won the 2012 Robin Becker Prize from Seve...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2021

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Are you ready to let go?Are you ready to let go? (image by motherproof.com) For families with children in the United States, there comes a time that can bring parents increased financial burdens. 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? 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. 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. Many parents want to be there to teach their children, but they worry about all the distractions and poor driving behaviors when they’re not.

It probably doesn’t come as a shock to find that teenagers are considered high risk drivers in car insurance calculations. 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, like teen driving apps. We can’t answer the question of if you should, but we do know you could. We suspect we know what the answer of any responsible parent would be.

Are parents of teen drivers violating the idea of trust by monitoring their child’s driving?

If you’re monitoring your teenager’s driving behaviors and locations, aren’t you violating their privacy? Or are you just being a responsible, caring and rational parent? Teens are trying to find autonomy and spread their wings. Some would compare this type of system to big brother.

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 safe driving habits for insurance discounts. If you do believe your teen will be an especially gifted and safe driver, you might want to consider such a program. Many insurance companies offer teen discounts for this real-time tracking and certain classes. 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 concerned parents have a lot of options to monitor these younger drivers. On the practical side, this could include things like accident notifications. On the everyday side, it could include things like speed alerts or other risky behaviors that could lead to accidents.

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What are examples of vehicle tracking devices?

One car insurance company in the United States offers a GPS-enabled vehicle tracking device that not only lowers your rates like the Progressive Snapshot, but also allows you to monitor your teen’s exact location, make sure they’re obeying the speed limits, and more. You can even set the program, called Teensurance, to send you email alerts or text messages if your teen is driving after curfew, is speeding, or more. Depending on the settings, you can get regular report cards.

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.

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 teen tracking device or tracking app that is 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 Smartphone device in their possession. It isn’t uncommon for them to be forgotten on occasion.

There are also many third-party companies that offer GPS monitoring with car-installed black boxes. Some offer tons of options with a monthly subscription, such as everything from passive tracking to full-blown real-time location updates, instant notification in the case of an accident, and full integration with web-based technologies like Google Maps. Many come with roadside assistance options to give you a little more peace of mind when your teenage driver is on the road. The crash detection functions of many of these trackers can be programmed to call emergency services automatically. Some even have a roadside assistance feature if your teen has a flat tire or runs out of gas.

So…what are your answers? Should you monitor your teenager’s driving? And will you? Is it only for insurance discounts, or do you want more extensive alerts? These are just a few of the questions many parents have to answer.