Ronda Kaysen: After Sara Broers' 18-year-old son got in his third traffic accident, her insurance company suggested she install a camcorder to monitor his driving. She thought it was a great idea ... for his younger brother. "I think that it would cause my older son to rebel more," she said. "But for my 14-year-old, I will put it in from the get-go and he will never know the difference."
The camcorder, known as a DriveCam, isn't the only device Broers can buy to monitor her kids' driving. There's a whole cottage industry cropping up to serve the teenage driving set and keep their parents calm as adolescents hit the road for the first time. With more than 10,000 teens in car accidents every year, it's no wonder parents are shelling out cash to monitor their progeny's every move on the highway.
We've compiled a list of some of the hottest gadgets to keep the newest drivers safe this holiday season:
Safe Driving Gadgets for Teens
The DriveCam is not exactly Big Brother, more like Big Mother. The DriveCam is a camera that parents install in the windshield of the car. It records 10 seconds before and 10 seconds after any serious incidents, like speeding or sudden breaking, and sends the images back to a website where Mom can see what went on. It's not cheap. A setup kit costs $899, and then there's a $75 monthly fee. Some people think this is a little much: "If you need a video camera to monitor your kid, your kid probably shouldn't be driving," said Steve Mochel, owner of Fresh Green Light, a driving school.
The Lemur Safe Driving Monitor is a GPS device that comes on a keychain and records top speeds, distance traveled, and any abrupt stops that occurred. It also has a tamper alert to let parents know if the battery was disabled during the trip. It costs about $100. Mochel, whose 17-year-old son is his personal guinea pig for all the new driving gadgets, says this is his favorite option out there for kids.
Tell My Mom
Tell-My-Mom.com cuts right to the chase, and is pretty low-tech -- it's a sticker affixed to the back of the car that lets other drivers call a number and report erratic driving to none other than Mom. A subscription costs $55 a year.
ZoomSafer consists of software that you download to your teen's cell phone. It automatically updates her Facebook and Twitter pages to let her friends in her network know she's driving and not available to talk. When people call or send texts, the software sends an automatic message saying she's driving. "That's awesome. I think we all should have it," said mom Sara Broars.
Think of TIWI as a backseat driver with batteries. It's an in-car monitoring computer that offers instructions and corrections as your teen drives. If she speeds, the automated voice lets her know. If she makes a sudden stop, it tells her. It costs about $600, plus a $30 per month service charge.