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Can spying on your teen driver decrease your auto insurance premium?

By Amy Higgins

Adding a teenage driver to an auto insurance policy can increase parents’ premiums 50 to 100 percent, the Insurance Information Institute says. While this information also may increase parents’ blood pressures, their true concern is the safety and well-being of their teen drivers.

In the United States, the crash rate per mile for 16- to 19-year-olds is four times that of older drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s 2009 Fatality Facts report. So are parents helpless when their teenager hits the road? Not necessarily.

Influence habits with gadgets

There’s no doubt that if you see red-and-blue flashing lights in the rearview mirror, you’ll administer your best driving skills to keep them from flashing. Here are a few ideas that offer the same effect as a shadowing police officer but come in the form of devices:

  • The American Family Insurance Teen Safe Driver Program (free for American Family auto insurance customers) uses a DriveCam to record teens’ unsafe driving practices. The DriveCam device is positioned behind the vehicle’s rearview mirror and records irregular movements such as extreme braking or a collision and sends the information to DriveCam’s analysis center for a closer look. Teen Safe representatives then record the data on the teen driver’s weekly report card, which the parents and teen can analyze together on a secure website. Parents and teens can use this information to discuss ways to improve driving practices and to commend teens for good driving behavior.
  • Davis Instruments’ key fob-size CarChip Pro can monitor a teen’s driving tendencies and provide information about the occurrences 20 seconds before a crash, the company says. The CarChip Pro plugs into the vehicle’s On-Board Diagnostic System port under the dashboard or steering wheel and reports driving information directly to your computer. Parents and teens can then review the teen’s driving habits and get a better understanding of the driving errors that may have occurred, allowing them to discuss how to correct them.
  • After you sign up for Safeco’s Teensurance program, a small GPS system is installed in your teen’s vehicle by a professional. Parents and teens select the options they want online and sign a parent-teen contract. The Teensurance program offers around-the-clock roadside assistance, vehicle tracking, and alert options for speeding, arrivals and departures. Safeco customers can save up to 15 percent on their car insurance when they participate in Teensurance, according to the company’s website.
  • You can “follow” your teen’s every move via cell phone GPS. The Verizon Family Locator plan enables family members to locate one another at any given time and reports users’ arrivals and departures. For instance, Verizon customers whose families are enrolled in the Family Locator plan will receive notices when their teens arrive at or leave a school function. The plan also provides the location’s address and directions on how to get there.

Teen training

Whether or not you’re a supporter of teen driver tracking devices, it’s important to prepare your teen to become a safer driver. Driver safety courses can benefit drivers of all ages. Simply enrolling teens in a driver safety courses can educate them about the dangers of unsafe driving and improve their skills. Some providers offer auto insurance discounts to those who complete those courses.

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