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Programs Let Parents Check Teens' Driving Behavior

Oct 13, 2007


CHICAGO -- When 17-year-old Anna Kindermantakes a turn too fast in her parents' sedan or jams the brakestoo hard, she apologizes aloudeven when no one else is inthe car. "Sorry, Dad," shesays, looking up at the cameraon the rearview mirror.

Mom and Dad will see theincident on video soonenough, after all.

Several U.S. auto insurershave begun offering in-carcameras or global positioningequipment to help parentsmonitor their teenagers' driving behavior, hoping to reducethe alarming number of crashes involving young new motorists.

Industry experts say it's toosoon to gauge the effectiveness of programs like American Family Insurance Co.'sTeen Safe Driver, used by theKindermans in Madison, Wis.But the case for needing to improve highway safety for teensis compelling.

Traffic accidents are by farthe No. 1 killer of U.S. teenagers, with a fatality rate fourtimes higher than driversaged 25-69. A total of 5,288teens died in traffic accidentsin 2005, and more than 7,000were driving cars involved infatal accidents.

One of the programs -- Sa feco Corp.'s Teensurance --just announced premium discounts of up to 15 percent forits customers who participate.Others are likely to follow suit.

Under Teen Safe Driver, acamera records audio and video images of both the roadand the driver when motionsensors detect swerving, hardbraking, sudden accelerationor a collision. The footagegoes to an analysis centerwhere it is graded for riskiness and sent on to parentswith comments and coachingtips.

Customers of Seattle-basedSafeco pay an additional$14.99 a month for two yearsfor the program.

While Safeco agents suggested that initial interest inthe program was tepid,spokesman Matt Gertmeniancharacterizes nationwide salesas good so far. The main goal,he said, is to get teens to thinkand talk more about drivingsafety.

"We're trying to have themdrive the way they do whenMom and Dad are in the carwith them," he said.

Another new program isMobileTeen GPS, launched inApril by American International Group Inc.'s AIG Auto Insurance. Like Teensurance,the GPS program sends parents an e-mail or text messageif the teen's car exceeds pre-defined speed limits or straystoo far from home or school.

The cost is $19.99 a monthfor two years for policy holders of Wilmington, Del.-basedAIG; others can buy the device for $469 and join the program for another $29.99 amonth.

Teen drivers have mixedfeelings about the technology;one in 20 even cover the camera after it is first installed, according to program officials.

"It's great that you can seewhat you did wrong," said Anna. "But it kind of feels like aparent is in your space, especially when you get yelled at ifyou do something wrong."

She has been part of a pilotprogram at her high school forthe last year. She usually sitsdown with her father, a policeofficer, to review the incidents-- and explain why she wasdriving with a cell phone toher ear.

Her mom, Bette Kinderman, views the system as agreat tool for parents. "I'drather be able to talk to herabout an issue before there'san accident," she said.

She downplayed concernsabout privacy: "To me, mykids haven't earned their privacy in a car yet. Being in a caris so dangerous."

Originally published by DAVE CARPENTER Associated Press.

(c) 2007 Tulsa World. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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