Auto insurance companies have started offering devices for parents to monitor teen driving habits. Services include in-car cameras or global positioning devices. The intent? Reducing teen car accidents.
We all know that insurance is higher for teens because they tend to get in more accidents. But is looking over their shoulder the right solution?
Teens are riskier
Teen fatality rates are four times higher than most drivers over 25. And with road rage on the rise, we certainly worry that our teens won't know how to adequately handle a volatile situation. Will knowing that Mom will see and hear them later help teens drive better, or will it add more pressure and cause them to make more mistakes?
If you need to track them, are they ready?
My concern is this: If you don't trust your teen in the car, why in the world are you letting them drive alone? If they're not ready, give them more road time with you in the car. They need practice and instruction on what to do or not do (not yelling or berating — just instruction).
When my teenage stepdaughter was in the car with me, I would explain why another driver's behavior was rude or dangerous. I wanted her to understand that she's not the only car on the road and she must always look out for the "other guy." Teens must understand the basics of defensive driving. If they don't, why should we let them behind the wheel?
Some insurance companies with these teen safety programs offer discounts to parent participants. That alone may give many parents the incentive to enroll. I still believe we should teach our teens good habits and then be an example by not talking on our cell phones or getting distracted by things in the car.
Sometimes we just want to make sure our teens are where they say they are, and GPS tracking can certainly help with that, especially in large cities where you can't rely on neighbors to mention where they saw your teen last night. However, I hope to establish a relationship with my (soon-to-be born) son that won't require these devices. I have no guarantees, but I hope that these devices are not 15 or 16 years in my future.
Is age 16 too low?
Maybe we need to take a closer look at the entire culture of driving. Is it time to raise the driving age? Or require permits for a longer period of time? Are teens mature enough to handle the privilege? I do think it varies by individual. But how many parents will refuse to let their teen drive until the teen is truly ready? I think it should be the parents' responsibility to decide whether or not their teen is ready to drive alone.
If your insurance company offers cameras or GPS monitoring, will you enroll your teen? Why or why not? I'd love to hear what other parents are thinking of doing. Fortunately, I have a number of years before I have to make that decision, and I wonder I'll feel the same way then. What about you?
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