Many parents worry when their teens start to drive. Distracted driving, inexperience and simple carelessness are all reasons for parents to be concerned. The added distraction of a cellphone and all its available functions bring even more reasons to worry.
While it would be great if parents could keep a watchful eye every time a teenager is behind the wheel, it’s just not possible. In this age of technology, can parents have more peace of mind when their newly licensed teenage driver is on the road?
“Parents can make use of vehicle monitoring devices,” says Chris Kersting, president and CEO of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). The trade association represents the $33 billion automotive specialty equipment industry that includes thousands of products that are available to enhance a vehicle’s styling, performance, comfort and convenience. “These devices can help relieve some parents’ anxieties about their teen driver and can even improve teen driving habits.”
Here are some devices to consider for anyone who wants to keep tabs on teenagers behind the wheel.
While you don’t want your teen texting while driving, it’s equally as important to make sure that he’s not talking with his phone glued to his ear. A vehicle with Bluetooth capabilities will ensure a safer hands-free experience – not to mention you can call him knowing he can answer you without taking his hands off the wheel or his eyes off the road. Choices range from a standalone universal Bluetooth kit, FM transmitters or a new Bluetooth-enabled car stereo system.
You can easily track a vehicle’s movement using a GPS tracker. These handy devices can be mounted in any car, sometimes using only a magnet, and will report back to your computer or smartphone. Advanced features include alerts letting you know if your teenager is driving out of a pre-designated area. Trackers typically require a monthly subscription service fee.
Plug-in diagnostic port adapters
Plug-in diagnostic port adapters plug into your vehicle’s onboard diagnostic port (OBDII). The OBDII connects to the car’s brain and when accessed, can provide a plethora of information on how the car is being driven. Every car sold after Jan. 1, 1996 was required to have an OBDII port, so most vehicles on the road today include this port. Numerous plug-in adapters are available to monitor driving habits and gather reports, including speed monitoring, harsh braking, location displays and more. Most adapters also require a service subscription in order to provide text or email alerts on activities you wish to monitor.
Hardwired telematics systems
A hardwired vehicle tracking system eliminates the possibility of your teenager finding and removing the diagnostic port adapter. Hardwired systems also provide real-time information and can pinpoint locations more accurately than a plug-in unit. These systems provide the same features such as speed tracking and notifications when your teen exceeds speed thresholds, and have built-in motion sensors to detect rapid acceleration or rapid starts. When real-time information is important, a hardwired system, while more costly and time consuming up-front, has real advantages.
Some aftermarket products available today can actually block cellphone usage when your teenager is driving, going a step beyond vehicle tracking or telematics. These cellphone blockers can be configured to block numerous phone capabilities, including texting while driving, taking photos and using applications. It can even block all incoming and outgoing phone calls, except from numbers you specify (i.e. mom and dad). Like a plug-in or hardwired telematics system, cellphone blockers connect to the vehicle’s telematics system. Along with blocking the most distracting functions of a phone, cellphone blockers also monitor and report speeding, driving habits and provide location identification.