How parents curb distracted driving with Verizon Smart Family

April 10, 2023

When I was a teen driver, the biggest distraction was a “Led Zeppelin III” cassette that jammed up the tape deck. That, and breaking every rule my dad laid down on the kitchen table with the car keys, like no driving outside the city limits and no speeding.

Teenagers today have way more distractions, like smart cars, GPS maps and urgent texts from friends: “Are you there yet?” The good news is that technology, like the Verizon Smart Family app, can help keep them safe without adding to these distractions. Apps, like the Smart Family app, install on your phone and then require you to also install its companion app on your teen’s phone. You’ll get real-time insights on their driving, like whether they’re braking hard, speeding or using their phone while driving.

Every day in the U.S., at least eight people are killed in distracted driving crashes, according to the National Safety Council, which launched Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Here’s what I’ve learned from driving experts and parents about using Verizon Smart Family with the teen drivers in your life.

Look for patterns in their driving behavior and talk together about what needs to change.

Patty Huang leads the team testing Verizon Smart Family and is raising two teen drivers. Using the app’s driver insights, she noticed her 17-year-old son was braking hard at the same spot, at the same time every morning, on the drive to school—but not on the drive home. She realized her son was pushing the speed limit to get to school on time, so now she makes sure he’s up and out of the house earlier.

The driver insights show a range of behavior for young drivers:

  • Phone use while driving
  • Rapid acceleration, hard braking and making hard corners
  • Going outside a safe zone, such as school or the neighborhood, that you’ve created
  • The vehicle’s top speed

If you learn from Smart Family that, for example, your teen is using their phone while driving, you can ask why. Are they texting work to say they’re running late? Or using GPS to find their way around town? If so, remind them: If you need to use the phone on the road, pull over. Then keep them accountable by continuing to keep an eye on the app’s driver insights.

Check the driver insights to see how they’re driving when someone else is in the car.

Phones aren’t the only distraction when teens are driving—passengers are too. Huang talked with her son about the dangers of distracted driving with friends in the car, and when she knows he has passengers, she checks the insights to see if he’s taking her advice. Huang said the insights indicated that her son actually drives more cautiously when he has friends with him.

Check yourself: Are you a distracted driver?

Driver’s education starts before your teen ever gets a permit, said William E. Van Tassel, Ph.D., manager for Driver Training Programs for AAA. Teens are picking up habits when they’re riding in the passenger seat with you.

It’s important to recognize your own habits and set a positive example, to retain credibility when engaging your teen about their habits. While it may feel uneasy to start to let go and transition from parental control to parenting guidance, apps like Verizon Smart Family can help.

*Driving Insights available with Smart Family Premium for $9.99/mo. Crash detection feature willnot detect all crashes and will not contact emergency services.

Written by

Molly McGinn

Molly McGinn is an award-winning journalist, child development and tech writer for Verizon’s Parenting in a Digital World. She still loves driving and listening to Led Zeppelin, with both hands on the wheel.