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Having teenagers old enough to drive is stressful enough, without having to worry about what they are doing in the car. With young drivers at highest risk of fatal car crashes, parents are able to use technology to see just what their children are doing in the vehicles that they drive.

It may all seem a bit 'Big Brother' - the book, not the TV show - and maybe a sign of a lack of trust, but in reality it is concern and a chance to teach teenagers methods and manners on the road in order to keep them safe.

As American insurance company GEICO says: "Ultimately, the most important factors in keeping any teen safe are the example set forth by a parent, open communication and understanding how to be a responsible driver."

Getting past the trust issue is a difficult one, because the addition of any monitoring devices in a car will raise this issue, so it is important to stress that it's there to help not monitor - even if that's not strictly true. By being upfront about everything with the teenager, hopefully they will see it as them learning, and see it as a chance to show that they can be a responsible driver.

Any gadgets can only provide a certain level of protection. "Practice, awareness, education and continued learning are the most important tools a parent can share with their teenager." 

So, with all that in mind, just what is out there to help us guide the drivers of the future - and keep an eye on just what they are doing?

Incorporated In-Car Technology

Car manufacturers are already wise to the needs of customers with teenage children and are starting to incorporate options to allow restrictions on drivers if required.

In the USA, the Chevrolet Malibu allows parents to set speed alerts and limit audio volume, and also provides trip reports to allow parents to see just how the car is being driven to "use as a starting point for constructive discussions with their teens."

And here in the UK, Ford MyKey - technology that exists on cars such as the new Kuga - allows owners to programme a key for younger drivers that restricts incoming phone calls, sets a top speed, blocks any deactivation of driver assistance and safety features, sets a maximum volume on the audio system, and even disables the audio system altogether if occupants are not using safety belts.

External In-Car Technology

If the car that you drive isn't already fitted with 'teen-safe' technology, there are options and alternatives available to fit 'off-the-shelf'.

Certain systems such as the Voxx Carlink ASCL4 that plugs into the vehicle's onboard diagnostics port and links with a smartphone via Bluetooth can monitor speed (and even prevent the driver texting and emailing while driving via a ZoomSafer app), and Verizon Hum (which can send you a message alert if the driver exceeds a certain speed, sets driving restrictions, and even allows certain place tracking) are available in the USA under monthly subscription.

In the UK, telematics (otherwise known as black box technology) is available mainly through insurance companies, often aimed at teenage and young drivers, such as Ingenie and Insure the Box, with the technology monitoring driving behaviour. This information is fed through to the insurers.

If you yourself want to monitor your teenagers driving, there is the option of using GPS Vehicle Tracking And Notification Systems to keep an eye on their behaviour. Technology offered by companies such as TeenTrack can not only monitor the speed of the teenage driver and give you a report and let you know where the car has been (or is!), but also give you information as to location of the car in case of theft or breakdown. Reports can be printed out for discussion at a later date to highlight good (and bad) driving habits

Other safety options

Many of the already built-in safety functions in cars are useful in the teen-driving world, such as anticipatory braking, where the vehicle uses radar to anticipate a collision and prepare the brakes for better stopping, and enhanced cruise control that allows the setting of a specific following distance from the vehicle in front.

And some vehicle manufacturers, including Volvo and Saab, are looking at the possibility of offering built-in alcohol detectors "that prevent a vehicle from even being started if the driver has any alcohol in their system." From standard breathalyzers to systems that detect levels via the skin of the hands on the steering wheel, these systems are designed to prevent the possibility of driving while intoxicated. Teens and alcohol are a lethal, and all too frequent, combination.

Teen Driving on YouTube 

If your teens are anything like their friends, social media is a must for them. So get them to check out the Teen Drivers You Tube Channel created by GEICO.  It features lots of teen driving safety videos created for and by other teens. 

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