A New Way To Watch Your Teen In Their Car, Good Parenting Or Overprotecting?

OnBoard for Teen's device
Nearly 1,000 16-year-old's die every year from fatal car crashes. In fact, at age 16 kids are five times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than any other age group. One organization is working to lower that number by allowing parents to track their teens driving habits — but is this going one step too far?

 

Imagine the scenario. Your kid borrows your car. They said they were just going to their friends’ house and promised to keep to the speed limit. Then all of a sudden your phone starts doing this...

"Beep ... beep ... "

That sound is an alert that your child has done something they shouldn’t in your car. This is the new driving reality says AAA Texas’ Cletus Nunes. It’s their new OnBoard for Teen’s device that is free for AAA customers.

"It plugs in to your on board diagnostic port which is standard on any vehicle in the U.S. after 1996. It’s the same port that the mechanics use, smog testers usem, so it gets its power from there and also reads the onboard computer."

Through that onboard computer and a pc a parent will set a specific area where their teen can travel. They will also set a speed limit they must keep to and if the teen decides to ignore these, the parent knows all about it. Nicholas Hong is one of those teens. He’s a freshman at UH and has had the device in his car for about 16 months now. When his parents initially fitted it they didn’t tell him.

"It was a little bit of a shock, but when they told me that they knew the speeds, the locations and that I could get help anywhere if I were to break down, I coul get help. It makes me feel safer."

Hong’s Dad Mike McCrackin did feel in the beginning that it was a little like they were spying on him. But after a few trial runs, McCrackin realized that it actually gave his son more freedom, because they weren’t always calling to see where he was. Plus the most important goal of ensuring his son was driving safely was achieved.

"So if this slows him down and it keeps him to going where he’s supposed to be going, and if he has to think about it because he knows we’re watching little bit then maybe it’s a good thing." 

Nicholas doesn’t mind his parents checking on him because he trusts them. That level of trust works both ways. Francisca Ortega writes the Mom Houston Blog for Chron.com. She is mother to a 13 year-old girl and would consider using this device, but only really to open a dialogue if her daughter wasn’t being honest.

"I don’t think I would jump to conclusions, but definitely ask her what happened with this you didn’t get to school or you didn’t go straight to your friend’s house like you said you would."  

Cletus Nunes with AAA Texas says that’s probably the best approach.

"Look this is not about big brother. You want them to be safe and you’re gonna get the maximum amount of safety if you tell them you be honest about it and now they don’t know what you’re watching, so they’re gonna be careful about everything."

Ortega believes the real usefulness of this device depends on the relationship between parent and child.

"I would hate to judge any parent who thought that that was something that they needed to do to keep track of their child. I think that every parent would have to make that decision for themselves."

Whether parents use it to keep an extra eye on their kids or not, AAA Texas hopes this device will save some of those many teen lives lost every year on the roads.

Bio photo of Edel Howlin

Edel Howlin

Producer, Houston Matters

Edel is a producer on Houston Matters and reporter for PBS’s Newshour Weekend...