Should I secretly install a device that can track my teen’s distracted driving?
Dear Ms. Smartphone: My car insurance offered me a “black box” to install in the car. It will report things like the speed, sudden braking, and whether I am using the phone. My teen shares this car with me. She seems to be a good driver and I wonder if I need to tell her about the box. Adrian, Boston
Dear Adrian: Readers may disagree but I think you should tell your teen. I would also use the tracking device in a more active way. When these reporting devices are installed in vehicles claim rates go down. And, real-time feedback helps drivers learn to drive better. It is important, at any age, to take steps against distracted driving. Here is a serious article with a funny ending- the founder of a company that provides these devices getting rear-ended at a red light!
Dear Ms. Smartphone: Why do I feel the need to answer my phone when I am in the car? I know it is not safe, but I still feel the need to pick up the call. I feel so conflicted by this. K.P, San Francisco
Dear K.P. You didn’t state your age, but before smartphones and the answering machine, people answered the phone whenever it rang- it was rude to not do so. And, there were no safety concerns as phones were stationary (fixed to a wall). Today, phones travel with us, and that brings lots of safety concerns… but they also provide the security of maps and navigation. The easiest solution is to turn the ringer to ‘off’ when you drive and leave the GPS on. But, you can also sharpen your mental skills: keep looking straight ahead at the road, remind yourself that an important caller will leave a message. Bring to mind this is a ‘robo’ on two counts: it is stealing your attention, and, most likely, a robo-call.
DEAR MS. SMARTPHONE: I AM OLD ENOUGH TO GET MY OWN CAR AND HAVE BEEN SHOPPING FOR A USED ONE WITH MY PARENTS. WE REALLY DISAGREE ON THE FEATURES. I WANT A CAR THAT HAS APPLE CARPLAY SO THAT I CAN SEE THE MAPS, AND STREAM MUSIC AND DO OTHER THINGS. MY PARENTS DON’T SEE THE NEED FOR ME TO HAVE A CAR WITH THIS FEATURE AND SAY THAT IT IS LIMITING OUR CHOICES. I PLAN TO PAY FOR MOST OF THE CAR AND THEY WILL PICK UP THE INSURANCE. PLEASE HELP! Emily, Mill Valley.
Dear Emily: Many young people, like yourself, expect cars to have state-of-the-art infotainment centers.. Older people are not accustomed to these and do not see all the advantages. It is important to remember that .you are buying a car, not an entertainment system, so don’t put the cart before the horse. Your safety comes first. Look at the reliability of the vehicle, and since it is used, make sure it is equipped with airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control. Those should take priority over smartphone connections! Your parents may be worried about your future driving. That big entertainment console is hands free, and that’s a good thing, but playing around with your phone will still keep your visual attention and cognitive focus off the road.