Childrearing

Parents Can’t Always Watch Teens Drive, But Big Brother Can

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So apparently this is National Teen Driver Safety Week. (Can someone let me know when it’s Campaigns for Public Awareness of Assorted Social Problems Fatigue Week.) As part of the, uh, festivities AAA has rolled out an exciting new product sure to thrill parents who don’t trust their kids everywhere:

Just in time for Monday’s start of National Teen Driver Safety Week, the Automobile Club of Southern California has unveiled a GPS tracking device that not only lets mom and dad know where a teenage driver goes in their car, it alerts them if the kid goes over the speed limit.

Auto Club officials say the gizmo plugs into the diagnostic port found in any car built since 1996.

When parents log onto a password-protected website, they can see all driving trips for any given day. The GPS device is free for folks who carry teenagers on their Auto Club car insurance policies.

I can certainly understand why this product would be desirable, and unsafe teenage driving is a problem that can have tragic consequences. But the whole point of learning to grow up is teaching your kids to be responsible. And I’m sorry, but that’s kind of hard to do when parents don’t let go and insist on Big Brother riding shotgun. Further, learning to drive is is at least in part about asserting your independence and freedom. That may mean going 45 in a 35 when the 5-0 aren’t looking. I remember years ago David Letterman joking something to the effect that there’s a reason Communists are no damn good at laying rubber in the Dairy Queen parking lot.

So by all means go out of your way to teach your kids to drive safely. But the proper way to work with them until they can be trusted with the responsibility on their own. Making a spreadsheet cataloging their driving habits is a surefire way to make them resentful and make them even more willing to be unsafe when no one is looking.