My youngest son just hit the road as a new driver. He’s my third, so you’d think that I would be a lot more chill about the situation, as in “been there, done that.” But that’s the “fun” part of being a parent: You’re never done worrying about whether your dear darlings are safe, no matter how familiar a situation might seem.
As any parent of a young driver knows, we are well within our rights to worry. That’s because car crashes are the No. 1 killer of U.S. teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Tragically, six teens ages 16 to 19 die every day (more than three times the number of 20 year olds) due to vehicle crashes—with hundreds more injured.
If you’re like me, you probably have a family rule insisting that your teen driver check in with you when they arrive. If your kids are like my kids, however, you’ll know that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes my son goes to visit a friend with spotty cell service so the reassuring text might not come through; other times, he’s just forgetful, which means he might be blithely hanging out in his buddy’s kitchen while I’m fretting he didn’t arrive.
Fortunately, there’s a solution that can help offer the peace of mind we crave without potentially distracting our teens with “Are you there yet?” texts while they’re driving.
Car Tracker for Teenage Drivers: An “Automatic” Answer
If you’ve been nodding your head along as you read this, you may want to check out Automatic.com, which makes a gizmo you can put in your (or your teen’s) car to track all kinds of useful metrics, such as the car’s location, driving behavior, and other information on how it is being driven. The device syncs up with an app on your smartphone.
Radhika Giri, vice president and general manager at Automatic.com, notes another important feature called Crash Alert, which dispatches emergency responders to the scene of an accident. “If anything should go wrong on the road, parents will be notified at the same time,” she says.
In addition, she’s found that parents particularly appreciate the maintenance features like Service Alerts and Check Engine Lights, which offer a convenient way to keep an eye on vehicle maintenance—since, let’s face it, sometimes our teens pay less attention to dashboard lights than whether their music is correctly hooked up.
Furthermore, Automatic can help parents feel more confident in their fledgling driver’s abilities. “Automatic’s Drive Score and Driving History features are designed to promote safe driving and help improve behind-the-wheel skills,” Giri says, adding that this is especially important for new drivers who are still forming habits. “Monitoring progress can be very motivating and rewarding,” she points out.
Helping, Not Hovering
Of course, most teens are not keen on being monitored, so it’s important to have a candid discussion about the number one purpose of using a device like Automatic: their safety. Make sure your teen understands that it’s not a way to say “Gotcha” – rather, it’s a way to offer teens the freedom they crave, while helping to ensure they stay safe behind the wheel.
Giri recommends having a conversation with your teen about expectations prior to installing the device in the car. “It establishes trust between parents and teens,” she says, adding that Automatic allows you to offer more autonomy and freedom than you otherwise might if you didn’t have a way to know your young driver was safe.
As with most things in parenting, finding the right balance is key. Says Giri, “Parents can offer the incentive of increased independence, in exchange for some parental oversight as they learn the rules of the road.” With their safety in the balance, this seems like a fair deal to make.