Kent: Parents have responsibility to use technology to protect young drivers

January 15, 2014 

The commercials run a lot, so if you watch television you have probably seen one.

There are a couple of versions, but all begin “mine was earned” and then have various people telling where their USAA auto insurance was earned.

“Mine was earned flying C-141s to Vietnam.”

This is not a column about auto insurance but what I learned from USAA after my teenage son had a close encounter with a ditch.

Thankfully, the only injury was to the truck he was driving, but after Ronnie called USAA (which has been incredible, by the way) we also learned that maybe we haven’t been as diligent parents as we should have been.

USAA offers a Teen Safe Driving Device that we were unaware of prior to the ditch incident. Now that we have learned about it, when the truck leaves the shop after it is repaired, one will be installed.

Free to USAA customers, it is basically a GPS device that tracks and transmits to a website information like location, braking, acceleration and speed. Together, you and your teen -- in our case Scotty -- can sit down and review the data and see where or if bad choices are being made as a driver.

Important note -- the information that is gathered is not used to determine rates. It is strictly a service of USAA to help teens make better choices while driving.

Other insurance companies probably offer a similar service, but Ronnie and I have had USAA our entire lives, so I can only speak to that.

When I mentioned the device to a friend who has a daughter with a permit, my friend (who shall remain nameless because of what I am about to tell about her) said she and her husband decided to install into her car a small video camera system that relays the feed to a computer site. That way, my friend will be able to make sure that after her daughter gets her license, she is not texting and driving.

Maybe this all sounds a little Big Brother to you, but, like it or not, technology is here. Teenagers all text and tweet and have apps for homework, movie tickets and probably reservations for the first trip to Mars. The kids all know how to use technology to their advantage, so I figured why not the parents?

The fact is that Big Brother or not, car accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for 15-19 year olds. Whatever we can do as parents to prevent them is not only our right but our responsibility.

Contact Alline Kent at 478-396-2467 or

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