Your teen has finally hit the driving age.
Before you add him to your auto insurance policy, know the effect it will have: Your premium may soar because teens lack experience to make wise decisions behind the wheel and therefore are charged higher insurance rates.
Lauren Fix, a New York-based automotive expert and author of "Lauren Fix's Guide to Loving Your Car," says you'll have an easier time persuading your kids to drive safely if you use devices or smartphone apps that monitor driving behavior.
These are popular with many auto insurance companies, says Janet Ruiz, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit Insurance Information Institute. Some of these devices come with insurance discounts.
"They help teens to drive better and give parents opportunities to help them learn," she says.
A good app should be "intuitive," says Ross Rojek, chief technology officer of GoLocalApps.com in Sacramento, Calif. That means it's easy to use without a lot of instruction. If you don't understand how it works, it won't be useful.
Learn about five products parents can use to monitor driving behavior.
Apps and devices to monitor teen driving
1. Star Driver. Allstate's Star Driver program encourages parents and teens to agree on limits about how fast, where and when teens should drive. The Drivewise app for iPhone and Android devices can alert parents by text messages when teens arrive at their destinations. The app collects data about driving speed, time of day, hard braking events and driving routes.
2. Teen Driver. General Motors has released technology that enables cars to give teen drivers visual and audible warnings when they exceed speeds preset by parents. If the warnings are ignored, they will surface in "vehicle report cards" that show how far and how fast the teens drove. To gain access, parents enter passwords on the GM MyLink telematics system. The first GM car to have this feature is the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu. Reports to parents list any vehicle safety features that were used while teens were driving, such as stability control and antilock brakes.
3. Snapshot. The Snapshot device isn't specifically marketed for teens, but Progressive says it can improve teen driving habits. Plugged into a diagnostic port, Snapshot beeps when the driver brakes too hard. Snapshot also monitors the time of day driving occurred and the number of miles driven. If your teen brakes hard too often, your car insurance rates may increase, depending on what state you live in and the terms of your Progressive agreement. For instance, in Nebraska there's a maximum 20 percent discount for safe driving habits and a maximum 10 percent increase for risky habits, such as braking too hard.
4. Sprint Drive First. Designed for Android smartphones with Sprint service, Drive First enables parents to establish rules for teens' behind-the-wheel behavior. A software download is required to activate the service on existing phones. Once the car begins moving, an app deactivates some features of the teen's smartphone to discourage its use while the teen is driving. People who call or send text messages will get an automatic reply that the driver isn't available.
5. OnBoard Teen Safe Driver. Free for AAA members, OnBoard Teen Safe Driver allows parents to create alerts to notify them when teens arrive or depart from locations such as school or work. Parents also receive alerts when the device is disconnected or when the agreed-upon speed limit has been exceeded.
Stay involved with your teen driver
Fix says it's up to parents to set driving rules and enforce them. Her own two teens began driving with smartphone apps that allowed her to monitor where they drove and how fast they were driving.
"I found it best to tell the kids, 'Listen, just so you know upfront, I am monitoring you,'" Fix recalled. "Our rules were: You have an accident, you lose the car. You get a speeding ticket, you lose the car. I created a contract, and we used apps to enforce it."
Fix advocates tough love when it comes to teens and cars. People who stay involved with their children's driving often see less risky behavior.
"You are teaching them honesty," Fix says. "You have to have rules."
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