The statistics are indisputable: Teen drivers are dangerous, to themselves and others. Car crashes are among the leading causes of death for teenagers—2,800 in 2020 in addition to about 227,000 injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In per-mile deaths, that was nearly triple the rate of drivers 20 and older. Inexperience, distraction and night-time driving are among the major factors contributing to accidents.
Crashes can’t be eliminated, but there are steps parents can take to improve their kids’ safety. Many cars come equipped to slow when you get too close to the car in front of you, correct your path if you drift into another lane and tell you if someone is in your blind spot. Those features work for everybody, not just teens. Several manufacturers have functions specifically targeting teen safety built into some models.
But do most parents know this? That’s doubtful. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found salespeople and manufacturers could improve the way they explain and promote the systems. Chevrolet does a better job than most, the IIHS found. Chevy’s teen driver safety feature, available in several models, allows parents to program the car to refuse to go into drive until seatbelts are fastened, set a speed maximum and put a limit on how loud the radio or streaming device can be. The feature produces a “teen driver report card,” which the manufacturer says may include “distance driven, maximum speed, overspeed warnings, number of times the accelerator pedal was floored and when certain safety systems were triggered, such as traction control.”
In addition to features within the cars, there are also myriad driving safety apps, or at the very least report teen driving behavior (both safe and unsafe). Like nanny cams, the apps let parents know what’s going on when they’re not there. Some apps produce reports gauging a driver’s performance based on speed, acceleration, braking and more. The parents can use that information as they see fit.
Many of these apps cover the same basic ground. This seems to be the most popular, at least in my peer group. With millions of downloads, it covers more than just driving: It offers crash detection, emergency dispatch, roadside assistance, a family driving summary and individual driving reports.
RoadReady promotes its ability to track driving time. We live in Missouri, which requires teen drivers to have their permits for six months and reach time thresholds in total driving time and night driving before getting their licenses. The state doesn’t mandate proof that my daughter reached those limits, but that doesn’t make me want to hit them any less. RoadReady offers a simple way to keep track.
This app gives all drivers, not just teens, a score based on how they drive (avoiding distraction, following the speed limit, etc.). When parents use it as well, this gets rid of the teen driver’s lament that it’s not fair that they are scrutinized and nobody else is. This also allows for friendly competition, as parents and teens can compare their scores and strive to improve them. Frankly, in analyzing my own behavior in the context of teaching my daughter to drive, I have learned that I could use a refresher course.
This app automatically routes incoming calls to voicemail, mutes notifications about incoming texts and sends a reply that the user is unavailable. Like many other features across these apps, this is geared toward teens but would be valuable for any driver. Does any of this help? In a study of in-car safety features and teen-specific technologies, the IIHS concluded, “Assuming those technologies were universally used and completely effective, the researchers concluded that together they could prevent or mitigate 41% of all crashes involving teen drivers and as many as 47% of teen driver injuries and 78% of teen driver deaths.”