3.2 Electronic Technology for Parental Monitoring
Technologies have been developed to aid parents in monitoring their teenage drivers. Monitoring can include driving behaviors and performance (e.g., aggressive driving, drowsiness, and distraction), as well as situational aspects of trips (geographic extent, passengers, road and trip characteristics; Lerner et al., 2010). For example, many GPS companies offer “teen tracking” services that will notify parents if their teens go beyond geographical boundaries or if they are speeding at any given time. Video-based in-vehicle devices, such as DriveCam, can provide visual monitoring of teen drivers.
The smartphone-based Teen Driver Support System (TDSS) has been used to provide real-time feedback to teen drivers about unsafe driving behaviors. If a monitored driver does not cease the unsafe behavior (e.g., texting or aggressive driving), text notifications are used to report the behavior to parents (Creaser et al., 2015). The effectiveness of the TDSS program is currently under evaluation by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board (see https://mntransportationresearch.org/2019/08/21/new-project-effectiveness-of-teenage-driver-support-system for details).
In addition to aftermarket in-vehicle systems, vehicle-embedded systems that enable parental monitoring and setting limits on speed and infotainment use are becoming available. Some examples include Ford’s MyKey, GM’s Teen Driver, and Hyundai’s Curfew Alert technologies. See www.carfax.com/blog/5-teen-driving-technologies for descriptions of these systems.
Use: The extent of the use of electronic monitoring and feedback systems is currently unknown; however, the advent of smartphone-based systems and applications may provide low-cost alternatives to more expensive aftermarket devices.
Trust in teenagers, costs, or concerns about privacy may dissuade parents from using electronic monitoring systems (McCartt et al., 2007; Curry, Peek-Asa, et al., 2015). One survey in Ireland of teen drivers’ willingness to use a smartphone-based monitoring system reported that the risk of increased insurance premiums and the potential for device-based distraction deterred willingness to use the technology (Kervick, Hogan, O’Hora, & Sarma, 2015). However, peer approval and adoption of the technology was associated with positive willingness.
Effectiveness: While more research is needed to determine the impact of electronic monitoring on crashes and fatalities among young drivers (Reyes et al., 2016), many studies have reported positive benefits due to electronic monitoring of teen drivers in both learner and early post-licensure periods.
Reyes et al. (2016) conducted two studies to evaluate if post-drive electronic device feedback provided to newly licensed teen drivers can reduce risky behaviors, and if video feedback enhanced benefits of the intervention. In the first study, the rate of unsafe driving events (such as abrupt acceleration, deceleration, or steering maneuvers; traffic violations; or improper seat belt use) for teens who received feedback from an electronic monitoring device (video-based or non-video based) were significantly lower than the control group. Mean unsafe event rates were 6.1 per 1,000 miles for teens with either form of feedback in comparison with 35.3 per 1,000 miles among teens with no feedback. There were no significant differences between the video and non-video intervention groups, suggesting that the provision of any feedback is likely to deter unsafe driving behaviors among teens. A second study was conducted with teen drivers of varying ages during unsupervised driving experiences (Reyes et al., 2018). Drivers who received video-based feedback--irrespective of age or experience--had lower rates of unsafe driving events than drivers who received no feedback.
Electronic monitoring technologies can help reduce the incidence of risky driving behaviors among teens by encouraging parental feedback (Carney et al., 2010; Farah et al., 2014; Farmer et al., 2010; McGehee et al., 2007; Musicant & Lampel, 2010; Peek-Asa et al., 2019; Simons-Morton et al., 2013). One evaluation of the Steering Teens Safe (see section A3.1 for more information) program points to the importance of electronic monitoring systems in enabling event-focused feedback and communication between parents and teen drivers (Peek-Asa et al. 2019). The Peek-Asa group found that teen drivers who received parental feedback based on electronic monitoring had 85% fewer unsafe events than those who received no feedback at all, whereas those who received only electronic feedback had 65% fewer events than the control group.
Currently, there are no evaluations of vehicle-embedded electronic monitoring systems for parental monitoring.
Costs: The costs of electronic monitoring devices are usually paid for by the teen drivers and their families. Costs to the State or agency is low, but the device purchase and maintenance costs to parents or guardians can be substantial. Smartphone-based systems offer low cost alternatives to vehicle-based devices.
Time to Implement: Use of monitoring devices can start immediately upon installation.