Tech and tools to keep your 
new driver safe behind the wheel

By Jim Prueter

(July 25, 2019) As a parent, handing over the keys to your teen driver, watching them back out of the driveway, and head out on their own for the first time is more than scary. And, with good reason. Statistics show that teen drivers have the highest crash risk of any age group.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Centers for Disease Control:

    • 3,255 teen drivers age 15 to 19 were involved in fatal crashes in 2017.
    • Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens ages 16 to 19.
    • New teen drivers ages 16 to 17 are three times more likely than adults to be involved in a deadly crash.

Teen drivers have a higher rate of fatal crashes, mainly because of their immaturity, and lack of skills and experience. They speed, they make mistakes, and they get distracted easily — especially if their friends are in the car. To help your teen stay safe behind the wheel, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have a three-stage graduated driver licensing (GDL) system that limits high-risk driving situations for new drivers.

There are also a number of effective ways to promote and enhance your teen’s driving safety via vehicle devices that can coach, track and/or limit what your teen can do behind the wheel.

General Motors Teen Driver Technology

GM has developed Teen Driver, a safety feature that allows parents to view their teen’s driving habits. Available as standard equipment on many newer GM vehicles, the program can limit certain vehicle features and prevent certain safety systems from being switched off. Additionally, an in-vehicle report card can provide parents with useful information for coaching their new driver. Here’s what the system will do:

    • Mute the audio system when driver or front passenger safety belts are unfastened
    • Limit audio volume
    • Speed warning, programmable between 40 and 75 mph
    • Provide a report card with accumulated data for each trip

Additionally, the following safety features (if vehicle is equipped) will default to “on” and cannot be turned off: Stability Control, Traction Control, Daytime Running Lamps/Automatic Light Control, Forward Automatic Braking, Forward Collision Alert, Front Pedestrian Braking,
Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Reverse Automatic Braking, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert, Front and Rear Park Assist

Ford MyKey

Similar to GM’s Teen Driver, it’s available at no cost on most Ford vehicles, the system reads the vehicle’s key fob transponder chip and activates the settings you’ve selected. MyKey features include:

    • Belt-Minder: This feature provides a six-second reminder chime every 30 seconds and mutes the audio system until the vehicle’s front occupants fasten their safety belts.
    • Top Speed Settings: MyKey allows you to limit a vehicle’s top speed at four different settings — 65, 70, 75 or 80 mph — with chimes sounding at 45, 55 and 65 mph.
    • Screened radio content: Lets you block all stations labeled “explicit” by Sirius Satellite Radio.
    • Driving aids such as blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert can’t be deactivated.
    • Limit audio volume to 44 percent of total volume.

For those who do not own a Ford or GM vehicle there are other smartphone apps for parents. Most of these are free or available for a small charge.

    • Function: Allows hands-free use of cell phone functions while driving
    • Compatibility: Android, iPhone
    • Price: Free trial period, then $13.95/year.
    • About: compatible with any Smartphone device. Whenever a text message comes in, it will read the message out loud eliminating the need for the driver to take their hands off the wheel to scroll. Driver can respond via voice.

SafeDrive: For Teen Drivers

     • Function: Monitors teen location and driving speed
     • Compatibility: iPhone
     • Price: Free
     • About: This app is exclusively available via iTunes and for iOS users. It monitors speed and location of your teen allowing you to set speed limits. When exceeded, an alert will be sent to your designated phone or contact.


    • Function: Prevents distracted driving by blocking access to your phone while vehicle is moving.
    • Compatibility: Android and iPhone
    • Price: Free
    • About: It either blocks access to your phone or warns driver to “keep eyes on the road” via banner notification. You can enable passenger mode and add “emergency call or unlock.” Parents receive notifications if user tries to use the phone while driving.

Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents on roadways and we want to help you make sure that your child practices safe driving habits. Smartphones do not need to be a distraction. Educate your child about the dangers of using a phone while driving, and consider installing one of these apps for safety.