Parents' worries about their teens driving are not new, but there are new and improved measures you can take to make sure your teen exercises caution.
Teen driving contract. A simple idea, but these contracts have clearly stated expectations and consequences that may deter a teen from being reckless.
A contract should address safety in the following areas:
Always obeying the speed limit and traffic laws,
Always wearing seat belts and making sure that all passengers are buckled up before driving,
No drinking/drug use,
Not using cell phones or texting while driving,
Advising parents of where they are going and when they plan to return, and
Note - More accidents happen with new drivers in the 9 p.m.-2 a.m. time-frame than during the daylight hours.
Electronic monitoring systems
Electronic monitoring systems provide information to parents regarding their teen's driving, including when, where, and how aggressively. Some devices also provide ongoing, real-time feedback to drivers, helping to shape driving behavior.
Most of these systems connect to the vehicle's computer, and provide information to parents by either transmitting information to a parent's computer or cell phone, or by the parent downloading data directly from the vehicle.
Some devices are relatively simple, providing only basic information, such as maximum speed and total distance traveled per trip. More complex systems may allow real-time GPS tracking, automatically notify parents if the car exceeds a certain speed or geographic boundary, or even record video of a teen's driving.
There are legitimate issues to consider, however, when deciding to use one of these systems:
Trust issues between teens and their parents - teens may accuse you of spying on them.
Impact on teens' ability to resist peer pressure - how great is your level of concern for reckless behavior.
Actual use of the information by the parent - if data is not collected and/or monitored, teen behavior can not be adjusted.
In May 2009, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) published "In-Vehicle Monitoring and Driving Behavior of Teenagers." After multiple focus groups and use of monitoring devices under multiple scenarios between May 2007 and May 2008, the results summarized that:
Although seat belt use rates already were high, they improved significantly when violations were reported to the parental Web sites, and improved even more when in-vehicle alerts were activated.
While possible to monitor teenagers' driving electronically, in-vehicle alerts are insufficient to change behavior. Close and continuous monitoring by their parents is the more important key factor in improving teen driver behavior.
The results of this study serve to further illustrate how imperative it is for parents to take an active role in the activities and behaviors of their children. Parent participation is what keeps your child safe.
Don Keenan, founder of the Keenan's Kids Foundation, has published a book on kid's safety, 365 Ways to Keep Kids Safe, available at www.balloonpress.com, or at www.amazon.com. Proceeds benefit the Keenan's Kids Foundation, www.keenanskidsfoundation.com, or www.myspace.com/365waystokeepkidssafe.