Q. I have a new teenage driver in the family. What’s the best way to keep tabs on his whereabouts when he is out with the car? Will regular location-tracking phone apps work?
A. As long as you and the teenage driver agree to use a location-tracking app on your phones, the software should give you an idea of where he is at any given moment. Several apps and services for monitoring location through a smartphone can be found online. But keep in mind that you may not get the latest updates if the teenager loses his phone, its battery runs out or a network signal is unavailable.
Some location-tracking services include features specifically for keeping tabs on young drivers. For example, Life 360’s Driver Protect for Android and iOS is one option in this category and includes roadside assistance, a “Safe Drive Review” report for parents to see where the driver went (and how fast), arrival alerts, crash detection and emergency response tools. A Driver Protect subscription is $7.99 a monthbut comes with a free seven-day trial.
For parents who do not want to rely solely on information collected from the phone, a number of companies make vehicle-monitoring kits that use a small gadget that plugs into the car’s onboard diagnostics (OBD-II) port, usually found under the dashboard. Through its companion smartphone app, the device reports the car’s location, speed, braking information, driving history and more. You need to buy the OBD-II adapter (typically less than $80) and pay a monthly subscription fee. Prices vary based on the company, but Bouncie, Hum and MotoSafety are three car-tracking products to consider.
Newer vehicles may have optional tracking tools and custom apps available, so check your car’s user manual if you think these may be available. If the car already has the OnStar vehicle-safety service, you can add its FamilyLink monitoring feature for $3.99 a month.
Welcoming a new motorist into the family these days involves more than just driver’s education classes and adding the teenager to the insurance policy. Distracted driving incidents from texting or fiddling with other technology in the car are dangers that most older generations of drivers did not experience. The National Safety Council has information and app suggestions online for reducing distracted driving. Additionally, the council’s DriveItHome.org site hosts a series of detailed guides for parents of new driver
Even for parents who opt for less electronic surveillance of their teenage drivers, there is software to suggest for the new driver. Apps for the family’s insurance company, navigational aids and roadside-assistance tools can provide help when needed and minimize that invasive feeling.