Driving technology to help my teens stay safe

It’s a big, bad highway out there, with some crazy drivers traveling on it. You know that, but your teenager probably doesn’t agree – kids can be fearless. So how do you enforce safe driving habits when you’re not in the passenger seat beside him? Let technology do it for you.

Teen driver modes are there when you’re not
More and more car manufacturers are equipping vehicles with teen driving modes to give parents some control from afar. Ford MyKey has been available in some car models since 2009, and it was upgraded in 2011. It won’t let your teen turn on the radio until his seatbelt is fastened, and it limits the radio volume. It also restricts your teen to a speed you’ve designated, and will ‘ding’ at him to get his attention if going too fast.

Kia has its UVO eServices, and the many GM vehicles have a feature called Teen Driver, which will produces trip reports for parents, giving you a pretty clear picture of what your teenager’s doing when he’s behind the wheel. GM’s Chevrolet division plans to have Teen Driver on eleven models in 2017.

GPS monitors report back to you
Maybe you’re not looking for a new car but want to ramp up the safety features on the older model your kid is driving instead. If that’s the case, then several GPS manufacturers have you covered. You can plug a gadget under the dashboard, install some software on your smartphone, and begin receiving reports when your teenager is driving. The monitor will tell you where he’s headed and how fast he’s driving to get there.

Voxx Carlink ASCL4 links with your smartphone and can be installed in any vehicle manufactured after 1996. Hum by Verizon also links with your phone — either Android or iOS — and adds a speaker your young driver can use for hands-free calls if this is legal in your state. Your phone will alert you if he goes over a certain speed and you can set perimeters within which he’s permitted to drive. You’ll receive an alert if he passes beyond any of these established boundaries. Hum also works with all vehicles made after 1996. GM offers Family Link as part of its OnStar service, and Hyundai has BlueLink which includes roadside assistance.

Hands off that cellphone
The U.S. Department of Transportation indicates that teens are far more likely than older drivers to talk on their cellphones — and yes, text, too — while they’re driving. The ZoomSafer smartphone app won’t let them. It’s available with Voxx Carlink ASCL4. Apple’s CarPlay lets your teen make calls from his phone, get GPS directions or just choose the music he wants to listen to, all hands-free and voice-activated. The Honda Civic offers a similar Siri Eyes Free tool.

Let the car do the driving … or some of it
You can’t do much better than having your car drive your teenager rather than the other way around. Even if a robot car isn’t in your budget (or yet available), you can add a little driving technology to take care of some decisions for him. Chevy’s Teen Driver automatically turns on a side blind zone alert, front automatic braking and forward collision alert. Ford’s MyKey also includes a blind side alert, as well as traction control and a parking aid, none of which can be deactivated by your teenager if he decides they’re a nuisance. GM is currently working on an automatic braking system that works on GPS and Wi-Fi rather than radar to anticipate possible collisions.


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