Want to Monitor Your Teen’s Driving? There’s an App for That.

Insurance and tech companies let parents back-seat drive from their phones

Young woman driving a car
Parents no longer have to be in the back seat to be back-seat drivers.
Jan Baborák/Unsplash
By Alex Lauer / March 4, 2020 6:30 am

A driver’s license used to be a necessary rite of passage in the U.S. Even the most adamant helicopter parent had to let their child get in the family station wagon, put the key in the ignition and head out on the open road without a back-seat driver. Now, even if parents aren’t physically in the car, they can keep tabs on their kids thanks to a slew of new apps.

There’s Life360, a location-sharing app with driving capabilities (as you can guess, it’s not very popular with teens). There are also apps from car insurance companies themselves — like State Farm’s Drive Safe & Save or Allstate’s Drivewise feature — some of which may lead to policy discounts. The pros and cons of all these are detailed in an article in The Wall Street Journal, and the cons may deter some parents from using them.

The pros? Parents can often get notifications for unsafe driving habits, like speeding or using a phone, but the biggest reason to use the apps might be financial.

“Teens are the most expensive drivers to insure, so rewarding those who prove they are safe on the road can reduce the sticker shock of high teen-driver premiums,” writes the Journal. For example, State Farm’s app allows for discounts up to 30% off on premiums for safe driving, and Ford recently partnered with Nationwide for a similar program with savings up to 40%, but the latter is through the car’s computer, not an external app. 

The cons? As we discussed when the Ford initiative was announced, apart from the lack of privacy between you and your kids, there’s also the issue of privacy between you and the insurance or tech companies. The Journal also spoke with families who use these apps and found that driver tracking within families is a two-way street.

One teenager profiled was staying with her grandparents when she got a notification on her phone that her dad had not been following safe driving practices — on his most recent trip, he hit 98 mph. 

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