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5 tools to keep teen drivers safe behind the wheel

Posted April 6
Updated April 7

With spring approaching, teen drivers will be taking to the roads. Protect your child with these 5 tech-savvy tools for safer, more responsible teen driving. (Deseret Photo)

Letting go of your child as they grow is exciting, but it can also be nerve-wracking — especially when it comes to driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 2013 alone saw over 240,000 teens receive emergency room treatment for injuries sustained in vehicle crashes.

The good news is that you can help prevent teen car accidents. If you have a teen driver in your home, here are five powerful tools that will help keep them safe behind the wheel.

1. Dash cams

You may not have eyes in the back of your head, but a dashboard camera can give you eyes on the road whenever your teen is in the car. Constant dash cam supervision will encourage your teen to avoid risky behaviors on the road. If you really want to help your teen nip bad habits in the bud before they result in a costly or tragic accident, establish a regular time to sit down with your young driver and review the dash cam footage. Look for opportunities to praise good behavior, and point out what they can do better to stay safe.

With a teen in the driver’s seat, a two-way dash cam is probably the best choice for both monitoring and teaching opportunities — the device can capture what’s happening in the driver’s seat as well as on the road, all without the hassle of arranging multiple cameras in the vehicle.

2. Safe driving apps

Even though smartphones have been found to contribute to distracted driving, there are actually several apps that can turn that around. There are a wide range of options — from applications that help you monitor your teen driver to programs that improve driving. If your teen has a license and a phone, you need to install some of these apps ASAP.

As a top priority, look for an app that puts your teen’s phone in “driving mode” to block alerts, texts, and other notifications for the duration of every drive. Another smart choice might be an app that puts the phone in “hands-free mode,” so drivers don’t have to take their hands off the wheel — or eyes off the road — to answer a call or get directions. You can also find apps that gather data about your child’s driving habits to help you mentor them as their driving skills evolve.

3. GPS trackers

Increase your peace of mind with GPS trackers that keep you informed of your child’s driving safety. There are trackers that can be hard-wired into a vehicle and mobile devices that can move with your teen into any car they’re driving. Most trackers require a monthly subscription, but there are a variety of plans to meet most budgets.

GPS trackers provide real-time updates about your child’s location, speed, acceleration, and braking to your smartphone or mobile device. You can also set speed alerts to notify you when your teen driver exceeds the speeds that you’ve programmed into the tracker. Keeping a record of the tracker’s data also gives you another way to work with your teen to help them make good driving choices.

4. Safe driving websites

A recent report indicates that driver’s education reduces crash and traffic violation risk among young drivers. Given this powerful statistic, consider extending your teen’s driver’s education after they receive their license. Continued instruction and review during the first few months behind the wheel helps solidify safe driving habits that can last a lifetime. And, thanks to the Internet, you have easy access to a treasure trove of safe driving websites to help your teen hone their skills and sharpen their instincts.

There are plenty of online driving resource sites out there, including some that provide safe driving videos to teach teens about the dangers of distracted driving or bad road conditions. You can also find tips for parents to help you know what to watch for as your teen’s driving ability develops.

5. Car maintenance apps

Staying safe on the road takes more than knowing what to do behind the wheel — it also involves some basic maintenance under the hood. In order to be truly safe, your teen needs to understand both how to keep their car operating in good condition and what to do when something goes wrong. Fortunately, there are several car maintenance apps that will help your teen prevent and diagnose car issues before they become severe.

In addition to helping out with mechanical problems, some maintenance apps also aid users in finding the nearest gas station or mechanic. Your young driver can even use an app to remember when to get the oil changed and conduct other regular maintenance.

It may not be possible to keep your child from getting behind the wheel, but you can help them do it in the safest way possible. Take advantage of the technical tools and support available as you both make this exciting transition.

Clair Jones is a home and family safety expert and writer. Contact her @the_clair_jones with story ideas or interview requests.

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