On my way home this week from an Insurance Accounting & Systems Association meeting, I traveled with a colleague from a major P&C insurance company, and during our catch-up conversation, I asked him about his oldest 16-year old son, and the status of his driver’s license.

I was surprised to learn that my colleague 1) had no intention of allowing his son to drive just yet due to an “ongoing evaluation of his maturity level,” and 2) intends to place firm telematics-enabled crash prevention controls on board when he does drive. Another surprise: His son, he told me, accepted his parents’ position on the matter.

When my children were 16 and newly licensed to drive, I can recall arguments about carpooling, how far they could travel, and when they would be expected home. And although my children are now grown, I still worry about their driving while texting, talking or checking email. I also worry about the other drivers on the road, who could change my children’s lives forever by briefly looking down and losing control of their car in the process.

So it was refreshing to view an NBC News report this week that proved that my colleague and his son are not alone in their agreement about what it will take to promote safe driving.

NBC’s Tom Costello reported that although helicopter parenting and over-involvement in your teen’s life might be familiar, “when it comes to activities behind the wheel, too much nagging, and being a little over-cautious may be the best approach to saving his/her life.”

As part of Costello’s news segment, he featured Bruce Feiler of the New York Times, who shared a statistic that insurers are more than familiar with.  Quoting Nichole Morris, a principal researcher at the HumanFIRST Laboratory at the University of Minnesota, he said “If you’re going to have an early, untimely death, the most dangerous two years of your life are between 16 and 17, and the reason for that is driving.”

In fact, added Costello, some parents may be too relaxed about their safe driving rules…perhaps because they are too tired to drive the carpool, yet when a teen driver has passengers in the car, statistically this is when they are most vulnerable, largely due to distractions and peer pressure to take extraordinary risks. Some states, such as California, have put passenger limits on new drivers, but it’s up to the parent, said Costello, to monitor the teen’s driving behavior.

As insurers continue to process and evaluate new technologies designed to help mitigate risk, thankfully, there are, in this instance, telematics technologies being introduced that help policyholders (read: parents) lower that risk, and therefore save on premiums.

Although carriers are not mandating the use of these apps, there is an all-out insurance industry public relations effort to drill the “safe driving” theme home, and these apps are but a few of the valuable tools insurers are promoting:

Canary allows parents to monitor their teen’s smartphone use in real time, alerting if the phone is in a vehicle traveling at more than 12 mph. Parents receive a report of recorded times the smartphone was used, as well as if the teen drives into an established off-limits area. Available on iOS and Android devices, this free app also alerts parents if the teen disables it.

DriveMode, from AT&T, sets the speed at 25 mph before deploying automatically. Available free to Android and Blackberry users, this app shuts off all sounds related to incoming calls, texts or emails and responds to incoming texts and emails with an automated response stating recipient is driving.

Without an automatic launch, DriveScribe nevertheless uses smartphones to block text messages and calls when the vehicle is in motion, and also monitors the driver’s speed, telling the driver when he/she is driving too fast. Available for Android or iOS, this free app enables parents to access a report to see if the driver ran any stop signs or exceeded speed limits.

Finally, a free app available for iOS called LifeSaver uses a portal to provide parents with alerts when their teen is driving, then provides automatic scoring, rewarding, arrival notifications, and in-drive status.

My colleague and I agreed that there is no failsafe way to keep teens safe while behind the wheel, and whether or not your teen is in agreement with you on the safety measures you want to take on their behalf, at least you know the technology is available and the insurance industry is backing you.

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