Monitoring Your Kids' Driving Electronically vs. Sending Them to a School

The amount of technology in the cabin of a car these days is staggering. Yes there's air conditioning and radios and CD players and trip computers and GPS devices in many models. But there are Tvs in some and ways to plug in iPods or other personal media players, as well.

With the advent of minitiaurized technology, then, perhaps it's not surprising that an industry has sprung up to allow concerned owners of vehicles to monitor the performance of the people operating their vehicles. In many cases, that's businesses and their fleet drivers or municipal governments and bus and motorcoach operators. If you can afford it, parents can also do so for their kids.

One of the more common examples is a so-called blackbox setup that either taps into the car's computer system or uses an accelerometer similar to those found in Apple products. It allows data to be kept for acceleration, speeding and aggressive driving based on the amount of forces the device can detect. The results are then uploaded via wireless internet or can be downloaded via a USB interface.

Another option that is now offered is a camera that can be installed over the rearview mirror. It can pick up on distracting habits such as rummaging for items, talking on a cell phone or reaching with ones hands while operating the wheel with one's knees. The cost can be prohibitive for some, with the device running close to $1,000 and additional monthly charges of $100 to continue the monitoring service.

Parents may not want to go to the expense of being able to constantly monitor their young drivers. It's why talking about driver education programs and some of the topics they learned about could make more sense. While some online programs can cost a fraction of classroom-based instruction, they teach the same principles.

Parents who choose to talk with their children may also have better results. Although Iowan teen Allison Momany told U.S. News and World Report that she found the camera system helpful in limiting some of her poor driving habits, studies show that the majority of teens benefit from chats with parents about driving habits and potential safety issues.

One alternative that might pop up that splits the difference between the expensive monitoring systems and the less electronic method of frequent conversations after driving school is cell phone-based software. Since using cell phones can cause a substantial number of accidents, several developers have put out products that use GPS signals to shut down the cell phone's ability to get past the menu. They generally cost 20 to 30 dollars and are available through a variety of online outlets.

Driver education may not get every teenager to realize the dangers of driving. But while some parents may benefit from the peace of mind given by extra equipment, it should be seen as an additional tool that could be considered to keep kids safe, rather than a panacea that might not solve every problem. After all, it can't bring the car to a screeching halt if things go awry.