Data logger could expose teen’s bad driving behavior…or coach her to driver safer. What about her data privacy?
Dear Ms. Smartphone: A reader asked about installing a data logger to lower car insurance rates. I looked into it and like the idea but am worried about my teen. (read: Telematics and Teens).
My daughter is not a good driver. She has had several near-misses and was once pulled over with friends for a DUI (she was not the driver). But, she is only 16.
I worry that if we get this data-logger her bad driving behavior will be permanent on her record. Tony, Cambridge
What are the reputation repercussions if your daughter is pulled over for a DUI, or a random check finds that she is underage and smoking marijuana? I really don’t know. We are supposed to protect our kids online. Teens are vulnerable when they engage in risky behaviors, and they cannot anticipate that their digital record could follow them permanently.
These are challenging issues to sort out. As a parent, you must protect your daughter’s (digital) reputation. So, begin at home – well actually in the car. Your daughter is at risk as a driver. Either take back the keys or begin anew with one-on-one driver training.
Surprise! Having a smartphone in the car could make you a safer & better driver.
Dear Ms. Smartphone: Your column takes a hard stance on using smartphones in cars- they distract the driver, make them take their eyes off the road, slow down reaction times, etc. Yet, I see lots of drivers using their phones all the time. Are there circumstances when you would recommend using a smartphone in the car? Harrison, Boston
Dear Harrison: So, a big yes, and thanks for the observation. The first portable phones were called ‘car phones’ but they were suitcase sized and drivers had to pull off the road to call from them.
Today, car phones are bite-sized and an engineering advance called telematics links the car and driver.
Three or four phone features on the smartphone, namely the accelerometer, the gyroscope, GPS, and compass, collect data and compile travel information.
Telematics can be a tool for parents to monitor teen driving and help teach them driver safety. They record the speed of travel, acceleration, hard braking, cornering, and the ultimate, smartphone use and distraction! There are different companies working on the software, such as Zendrive, and it is used commercially in trucking. One firm offers a telematic ‘game’ called DriveWell. Teens compete for the title of the safest driver in an annual competition sponsored by Cambridge Mobile Telematics. The app is useful for new drivers, as it helps them track if they brake too hard, corner too sharply, or exceed the speed limit.
Mom worries about using
phones and earbuds when kids walk to school.
Dear Ms. Smartphone: A Mom question- do you think it’s safe for an 11 year old that walks to school to have a phone? There are several big streets to cross, and I worry that he will be looking at his phone instead of the road. My son says everyone has a phone and most of the kids do walk to school in our neighborhood. D.D., Tiburon
Dear D.D.: A couple of thoughts on the question you pose. First, congratulations on living in a neighborhood where children can walk to school. Many schools, including the one in your town, have Safe Routes to School programs and you can get more involved with their training. Two communities I know of, Honolulu, Hi. and Montclair, Ca. have banned pedestrians from using phones and earbuds when crossing intersections, but it is not clear that there is much enforcement.
That said, don’t over-worry. Talk over the safety issues with your son and make a ‘compact’ with him to follow the advice from Safe Routes to School. Personally, I would threaten to take the phone away if you find he uses it while crossing streets. Explain that he needs to focus for the full time.
There is a lot of confusion around phones and pedestrian safety. On the one hand, the percent of traffic deaths involving pedestrians has soared from 12% to 16% between 2008 and 2018. During the same time period phone ownership surged, and car safety improved. However, this could be a spurious correlation. Seventy five percent of the pedestrian fatalities occur after dark. It is also known that 32% or more of the ped fatalities are alcohol related. As in distracted driving, it’s hard to get the ‘real’ rate when phones (or marijuana/drugs) are involved.
You are right to question whether kids, phones, and walking mix well. One obvious point is to make safety and phones an everyday lesson, and make it a new discussion point with the November 3 switch to Daylight Savings Time.