USING MONITORING TECHNOLOGY TO HELP MAKE TEEN DRIVING SAFER:
My New Association With Hum by Verizon
July 24, 2017
For the past several months, I’ve been taking a hiatus from eight years of helping parents understand how they can work with their teen drivers, day by day, to help keep them as safe as possible on the road. But these months have not been time off; I’ve been working on the second edition of Not So Fast: Parenting Your Teen Through the Dangers of Driving, due to be published in March 2018.
As many of you know already, for this next publication, I have recruited as my co-author Pam Fischer, one of nation’s leading traffic safety experts. Pam, from New Jersey, is also Mom to Zach, who was a teen driver until two years ago, and several winters ago experienced two crashes in nine days; thankfully, car damage only — but proof that even a traffic safety expert’s child is not immune to the risks of teen driving. Also for this next edition, Deborah Hersman, former Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, now President of the National Safety Council, and mother of three teen boys, has written the Foreword. In 2013, Publisher’s Weekly called Not So Fast a “concise, practical, and potentially life-saving book [that] should be required reading for every parent before their teen gets behind the wheel.” The second edition will be much improved with insightful new advice from Pam, and updates – including the fact that in 2015 and 2016, after a decade of progress, teen driver crashes have increased nationally by ten percent.
Anyway, a few weeks ago, I got an email from the Verizon Telematics team, asking if I would be interested in helping them get the word out about a connected car product called “Hum” that can be used by parents to monitor their teens’ driving. I was interested but initially cautious, because in my advocacy I have consistently warned parents against in-vehicle electronics that may distract a driver, especially a teen; and because I don’t accept compensation for my advocacy, but donate all book sale proceeds and speaking fees to my son’s memorial fund, part of the endowment of the Asylum Hill Congregation Church in Hartford, CT. However, after a product demonstration showed me that Hum is a plug-in module that transmits data to an app on a parent’s phone, not an interactive screen distraction, and after Verizon agreed to make a contribution to Reid’s fund, we came to an agreement for me to become part of the Hum team, as a spokesperson to parents of teen drivers.
As readers of this blog know, my first point to parents is that driving is the leading cause of injury and death for teens. The second point is why: because the human brain is not fully developed until we reach our mid-20’s, and the last part of the brain that develops is the part that provides evaluation of risk and avoidance of danger; a teen’s brain is simply not mature enough to consistently and accurately evaluate the risks of driving. Parents then need to understand that Driver’s Ed teaches teens how to operate a vehicle and the rules of the road, but it does not and cannot overcome this delayed brain development, or teach teens anywhere near the myriad situations they will face as real-world drivers. Becoming a safer driver takes years, not months.
As a result of these realities, I advise parents, first and foremost, to start a conversation when their teen is first approaching eligibility for a learner’s permit. This conversation should then lead to a written agreement (my own national model is on this blog, March 2016), stating what the household rules will be about driving, and what happens if a violation occurs.
Once a teen driver first gets a license, I advise parents: “Treat driving like flying. Act like an air traffic controller. Each and every time before your teen gets behind the wheel, go over a flight plan and safety check list:
- What is your destination?
- Schedule for departing, arriving, and returning?
- Equipment ready for the trip?
- Communications plan? (and not by texting!)
- Mental state – rested and alert, not under-the-influence of anything?
- Ready to undertake this responsibility of safety to yourself, your family, and those who will share the road with you?”
I tell parents, “The car does not leave the driveway until you, as air traffic controller, give the thumbs up.”
So the next question is: how do parents monitor compliance with the flight plan? The answer is a telematics device, such as Hum.
Hum aligns with my advice to parents of teen drivers in several ways. Hum gives parents vehicle location with direction and speed, as well as speed alerts and boundary alerts (also known as “geo-fences”) that can be customized so the parents can know when the teen arrives at a destination or leaves an area. Also, through the teen’s phone (which parents can access after the drive), parents can detect phone usage, and view a driver performance scorecard showing speeding, acceleration, braking, and cornering. The system also provides automatic crash notification to the Hum support team, vehicle diagnostics, and through a visor-mounted speaker, roadside assistance, emergency support, and a mechanics hotline.
In Not So Fast, in my summary list of advice to parents, “Tips From Reid’s Dad,” Number 18 is: “If you can afford one of the technologies that track your teen’s driving, buy and install it.” Hum is a good example of this advice. A parent does not need to be a Verizon subscriber, and Hum is affordable too.
A device like Hum is not a cure-all. Parents must understand that installing monitoring technology is not a basis to suspend or ramp down the all-important daily supervision. There are dangers in teen driving (primarily, passengers, alcohol and drugs, night driving, texting, and failure to wear seat belts) that are the biggest causes of teen driver crashes, but that telematics devices can’t monitor. Hum is a supplemental tool for parents, not a substitute for daily, active supervision.
Some parents may be concerned that telematics devices “spy” on teens. My response is that a Hum system monitors a teen driver’s participation in a complex, dangerous activity. Hum is no more spying than radar when used by air traffic controllers.
But perhaps the most helpful feature of Hum as a telematics system is that it provides parents and teens with real-time facts for the ongoing conversation that parents and teen should be having throughout the first year or more when a teen has a driver’s license. If Hum tells you that your son or daughter exceeded the safe maximum speed agreed on, the conversation will not start with a dispute about what the speed was, or where or when it happened, but with the seriousness of the situation, the lesson to be learned, and how you can work together to avoid speeding in future drives.
So, parents: I recommend using monitoring technology like Hum to monitor your teen driver’s flight plan. It can help make your teen’s driving safer. And I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with the Verizon Telematics team
For First-Time Visitors
For those visiting for the first time: Welcome! I hope you find the blog informative and user-friendly.
I have been posting articles since September 2009, and I started with what might be considered the most basic and important topics. So, if you want to start your reading with those initial posts, just click through the Archives for September – October 2009, and work forward from there.
Proceeds from advertising on this blog are paid to my son’s memorial fund, which supports day care tuition for infants and toddlers in the City of Hartford.
Not So Fast – honored by Governors Highway Safety Association, national public service award, September 2014
This blog – recognized by U. S. Department of Transportation’s 2010 public service award, the nation’s highest civilian award for traffic safety
Tim Hollister – designated Traffic Safety Hero of the Year by the AAA Club of Southern New England, 2012
Teen/Parent Safe Teen Driving Contract Model
REACH YOUR TEENS!
Some of you have seen my “Open Letter” to new teen drivers that was published by AOL Autos on its Autoblog on July 22 (not coincidentally, Reid’s 25th birthday). We now have permission to reprint it. Feel free to use or forward anywhere this might be useful. My thanks again to Sharon Carty, Executive Editor of AOL Autos, for giving me the opportunity to prepare a stand-alone piece for teen drivers, to go with my blog materials and book, Not So Fast, which are directed to parents.
On December 2, 2006, my seventeen-year-old son, Reid, the driver, died in a one-car accident. On a three-lane Interstate highway that he probably never had driven before, on a dark night just after rain had stopped…
Note: Photo of Tim speaking at Fitch High School, Groton, Connecticut, April 24, 2014 — by Tim Martin of the New London Day, reprinted with permission.