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Teen Driving GPS Monitoring Devices: Promoting Safe Driving or Privacy Infringement?


Kids -my how they grow up so fast. From their first steps, to their first day of school, you have done everything in your power to safely prepare them for the outside world. And yet, is it ever enough? Certainly the "teenage angst" years, albeit a fantastic time in both you and your teen's lives, are relatively trying. As they enter their freshmen year of high school, teens seemingly have one important freedom in mind -the ability to drive themselves to and from wherever they would like.

Though this concept will induce several emotions for parents, ultimately most want to endow their teenagers with this freedom -after all, is that not the goal of parenting? If you are rather apprehensive about this transitional period, however, there are several technological devices for you to "keep an eye" on your prospective teenage driver. Is the impact on your son or daughter's privacy worth the peace of mind that it provides you?

Weighing the Pros of GPS Monitoring: Teen Drivers Are Accident-prone

According to LiveViewGPS, "Research has shown that teenagers don't drive safely for fear of crashing, but rather for fear of getting a ticket." Furthermore, since teenage drivers are rather inexperienced, and tend to be more easily distracted, they make up a large percentage of automobile accidents. In 2010, an average of seven teens, aged 16 to 19, died every day in motor vehicle accidents. Per mile driven, this age group is three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers aged 20 and older. Though young people aged 15 to 24 represent only 14 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 30 percent ($19 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries.

  • Teenage drivers are more likely than their older counterparts to underestimate dangerous situations, and are less able to recognize a situation as being hazardous.
  • They are more likely to speed and allow shorter following distances.
  • Among male drivers between 15 and 20 years old who were involved in fatal crashes in 2010, 39 percent were speeding and 25 percent had been drinking alcohol.
  • Perhaps most importantly, teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use. In 2011, only 54 percent of high school students reported that they always wear their seat belts while riding with someone else.

Though these figures are tentative, they do reflect some parents' concerns regarding their teenagers' ability to operate an automobile. Put simply, these statistics are eye opening and cause for alarm; for most parents, it is with this knowledge in mind that they decide to take advantage of GPS monitoring technology.

Can You Maintain Your Child's Trust Using GPS Monitoring Devices?

Several companies have developed GPS software systems to help you keep track of your child's driving habits. This software provides obvious benefits: a web-based system allows you to track where your teen is driving in real time, and if you are away from your computer, a text can be sent to your phone if he or she exceeds the maximum speed limit. However, it also has some key disadvantages -like the fact that teenagers, who are longing for their first taste of parental freedom, may have a hard time trusting a parent who is monitoring their every move.

As with any tracking device, security and privacy are of ultimate concern. Many providers of GPS tracking devices do not require proof of ownership of the vehicle, or even that the purchaser has permission to install the device (which is doubtful with teens). This means that a jealous spouse can order the device and have it installed in his or her partner's vehicle without that person knowing. Another feature of concern is that once these devices are installed, the burden of disclosure is passed to the purchaser of the product. The potential for privacy invasion is real and obvious.

Taking the Good with the Bad, the Bad with the Good

Like much of our technological world, this form of GPS monitoring rides the fence between providing necessary information and infringing on personal privacy. Though the inventors/companies promoting these devices surely have the best intentions in mind, this is an issue to be dealt with in individual households. Statistics across the board seem to point to an obvious conclusion: teenagers are not the most skilled drivers (but then again, a main issue is that they lack experience). Taking action to safeguard them against injury is a natural response for parents. However, how does one gain experience without a true opportunity to do so? There are both positives and negatives to this kind of technology. If you feel that such devices can alleviate some of your fears, it may be best to have an open discussion with your teen about safe driving before you jump the gun.

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