How parents can track teen drivers

Posted at 8:29 PM, May 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-17 07:20:21-04

Parents can't force teenagers to follow the rules when they're alone in a car, but just having rules can help save their lives.

A recent study by "Safe Kids" found on average 6 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 dies every day in a car crash. The study also found that teens who have set driving rules with their parents are more likely to get home in one piece.

Handing over the keys and letting her teenage sons take their first solo drives was anything but comfortable for Gail Patterson.

"It was scary," she said. "It was a scary feeling for me because I wanted them to stay focused and not get distracted because you easily can."

Patterson says that's why she had an agreement with her boys and trusted they'd follow.

"We had a rule: there was no texting," Patterson said. "They had to put it [their phone] in the glove compartment and they could not see it."

It's rules like that state police say are key, since distracted driving is the main cause of accidents with teens.

"Whether it's texting or calling, changing radio stations, using it for navigation, all of that stuff is a big distraction for young drivers," explained Tpr. Christopher Mathews, a Community Service Trooper with MSP Jackson.

But Mathews says the best thing is having parents in the passenger seat.

"Have more one-on-one time with them in the car even after they have their drivers license," he explained. "It gives them another opportunity to teach them and coach them as they drive and further develop their skills."

Since that isn't always possible, apps can help. There are lots of options parents can choose from. Many come with a one-time or monthly fee.

A free option is Canary, letting parents keep track of how many times their teen texts, talks on the phone and speeds. It also has a map that lets parents follow where their child is.

If parents are concerned their teen will find a way around it, some apps offer features that will let parents know if their teen tries to turn off the app when they start driving.

Patterson didn't have that option with her boy, but says she's considering when her youngest starts driving, hoping it can give her a little peace of mind.

"It was a lot and it still is to this day to me," Patterson said. "They're 19, but still I get nervous and always have to have them 'make sure you call when you get there.'"