Teens have always been vulnerable to crashes. But add in smartphones and teens are now even more so because of distracted driving.
An insurance company and an Overland Park business are now making an in-vehicle cameras available for parents, which are similar to the dash-cam systems used by police departments. They hope that the cameras will help teach teens better driving skills and help catch problems. Once problems are caught, parents can talk to their children about the dangers of distracted driving.
American Family Insurance has been offering the cameras for about two years. Policy owners may have the cameras installed for free for a year. Overland Park-based Digital Ally began selling the units recently. The cost is about $1,000, but you own the camera and all of the data produced by it.
The camera is installed in the rearview mirror. A light flashes when the camera is recording. The camera is continuously recording, but when an incident occurs then the camera saves that 30 seconds and the ensuing video.
Becky Lading, a Spring Hill mother, had a camera installed in her daughter's car a year ago through American Family. She wanted to be able to counsel her daughter about any issues.
"You can't be with them 24/7," Lading said. "To have [the camera] for the first year, even just that first year, was a great peace of mind for me."
Tana Campbell initially hated the intrusion by her mother when the camera was installed, but the teen now admits it had its benefits.
"I learned how to drive better," said Campbell, now 17 years old. "I am more conscious and aware of my surroundings."
Even though the camera never recorded the girl doing anything seriously wrong, her mother is convinced that "extra eye" in Campbell's car prompted the teen to drive safer.
The cameras will record teens slamming on their brakes, taking corners too sharply or losing control. But a parent can also set the camera to record, for example, when the car goes above 70 mph.
Some parents steer clear from the cameras because of privacy concerns. But advocates say the cameras capture incidents that could have turned deadly and allow parents to give their teens a "wake up call" about the dangers of texting even for a few seconds or answering a ringing phone while driving.
Digital Ally said companies wanting to monitor employees' driving can also purchase the cameras. The company had an engineer testing out the system when two vehicles collided in front of him at an intersection. The incident was then recorded, which helped police.
Advocates also say the video has been used to clear some drivers who were wrongly accused of causing a wreck.
American Family agent Scott Wixson said the cameras reduce risky driving, period.
"The reason we're doing this is that we know it reduces risky behaviors of teenagers by 70 percent," he said.
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