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How closely should we monitor teenage drivers?

Only 1% of parents think that their teenager regularly sends or receives text messages while driving.

The reality is that a full 26% of teens admit to this dangerous behavior, according to a new poll from The University of Michigan. In an AT&T survey of teens, 89% said they reply to a text message or email within five minutes, even if they are behind the wheel.

There are a lot of ways that parents can help become teens focused, non-distracted drivers – setting a good example as a driver, making sure they have all of the information they need to safely operate a vehicle. Still, car accident injuries are the leading cause of death for U.S. teenagers.

For parents who feel that they need more control over their teen’s driving habits, here are a few options.

Smartphone Apps:

  • DriveMode sends a custom auto-reply to phone calls, emails and texts. However, the app has to be enabled before you start driving. It seems unlikely that teens would remember to do this every time they get in the car. DriveScribe and Free Safe Text are similar.
  • might be a more palatable option for teens: it reads text messages and emails aloud using Google Voice.  On the downside, this means that the user is still cognitively (if not manually) distracted while driving.
  • OneProtect is automatically activated when a motor vehicle travels above a certain speed. It allows the driver to use a hands-free feature; a passenger can bypass the app, but they have to pass an attention verification test.

Monitoring Systems: 

  • iGuardianTeen provides a driving report by email after every driving session: it shows calls answered, texts sent, driving speed and locations. It does not, however, do anything to address the problem of distracted driving while it is happening. iTeen365 is a similar but much more comprehensive monitoring system, notifying parents of excess speed and other violations by text message.
  • Cellcentrol connects directly to the vehicle’s on-board diagnostic system, where it communicates with a designated smartphone via Bluetooth. The benefit to this system is the app can tell when your teen is driving (as opposed to riding in the car as a passenger). It safely disables texts, calls, emails and other apps, but can work with a hands-free headset if you choose.

Learn more about preventing distracted driving.

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