We’re a family with four kids, and our oldest is enrolled in the Teen Safe Driver program from American Family Insurance. We initially signed up in order to get lower insurance rates and, more importantly, to monitor our teen's driving habits.
We both agreed that we really needed to know how she was driving when we weren’t with her.
Initially, our daughter was resistant to the idea. After we talked about it and told her we’d be saving money on insurance, she decided to support it. Now, meeting the weekly score goal is something she takes pride in.
At first our daughter's scores were usually above the goal set by Teen Safe Driver. Over time, the number of “incidents” dropped and she is meeting the goals fairly consistently.
Now, an event is often triggered because of a particularly rough patch of road instead of anything she’s doing wrong. The events that normally set off the camera are nearly gone.
One of the best things from our daughter's point of view is that we've “caught” members of our family riding without seatbelts. Our daughter was grateful that we took this up with them directly, so she didn’t have to confront them.
A big lesson learned however, came when one of her friends was driving the car (with our permission).
One weekend, we took a number of our kids’ friends to a youth conference a couple hours away from home. We were taking three cars and one of our daughter's older friends was driving our car with the camera.
The shock of our life came when both of us saw how she was run onto the shoulder. She was very frightened by the experience and had to be relieved by another driver. Later we watched the video and saw that at the critical moment of moving into the other vehicle's blind spot, the friend had bent down to pick up something she had dropped on the floor. As a result she never saw the other driver pull into her lane. This was a significant learning moment for her and our daughter as well.
Our experience with Teen Safe Driver has been a really good one. We're definitely big fans.
When I hear families decide against using the Teen Safe Driver Program, I really wonder why. Maybe they think having a camera in the car sounds like Big Brother. From my experience with two boys, this program is worth every argument.
When I first heard about the Teen Safe Driver Program, I wasn’t sure about it, but my husband and son wanted to participate. My husband was convinced by data that shows teens who participate have far fewer accidents over the long term and are safer drivers. My son was convinced because he wanted a break on the insurance bill (he was going to pay for the increase in our insurance premium when he started driving).
Once installed, we sat down every week with our son and reviewed his “incidents.” At first, he whined, “The camera was too sensitive,” or, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” Then his competitive streak kicked in. He wanted to reduce his incidents and be better than his peers. With regular coaching, he quickly learned to drive more smoothly.
He had been driving for about three months when we got the call every parent dreads, “Mom, I’ve had an accident.” I freaked out, but I knew in my heart that my son was a safe driver. (The next morning, Teen Safe Driver folks even called to make sure our son was okay!) He had a ticket and the car was totaled, but he wasn’t hurt. From the tape, we could see that he had his seat belt on, there weren’t other teens in the car, the music wasn’t loud, and he was travelling at the speed limit when the car in front of him suddenly stopped. He was following a little too closely and couldn’t stop in time.
We’re now doing the program with our second son. Like his older brother, he complained the first few weeks and even swore at the camera (yes, you get to hear that, too). When he spun out on an icy road, we got to see all the things he did correctly and thank our stars that he was wearing his seatbelt. We had good conversations about what happened and complimented him on remaining calm and using what he had learned in driving school.
For our family, the camera is a window not a spy, the comments are supportive not judgmental, and the program provokes good, quality conversations, not fights.
Over winter break, my older son drove the car with the camera in it. After a month, he said, “Having the camera was really a good reminder. I’ve gotten safer.” Time to bite your lip and say, “That’s great, honey.”
Editor's note: Molly Wingate is a parenting coach and the author of Slow Parenting Teens, a radical parenting model for building positive, respectful and fun relationships with teens. Learn more at www.slowparentingteens.com.
I love the Teen Safe Driver program. It’s such a valuable teaching tool, I think it should be offered by every insurance carrier.
Last July, my 16 year old son, Tyler, got his driver’s license and we had made arrangements in advance to participate in the Teen Safe Driver program. Was Tyler happy to have the camera in his car? No.
Had I explained that no camera equaled no keys? Yes.
I knew Tyler drove safely when I was next to him, but how would he drive when I wasn’t there? Would he be giving rides to friends before he was allowed? Would he remember to wear his seatbelt? Would he use his cell phone or be texting while driving? Having the camera in the car let me know what was going on and gave me some peace of mind.
At first, I checked the Teen Safe Driver website almost daily. If there was something I thought was important for Tyler to see, I showed it to him and we talked about what needed to change. I reminded him of things like, “You still tend to corner to fast, slow it down.”
Or, (true story) “Hey, you can’t allow _____ to jump on the hood of your car when you’re parking!” I even got a video pointing out that Tyler had made a well-executed U-turn, but it happened to be at a double yellow line. Without Teen Safe Driver, how would I know these things?
The Teen Safe Driver program doesn’t just point out mistakes – it’s also cause for positive feedback. “Tyler, I got a video today pointing out that you have never once been caught without a seatbelt. Great job!”
Tyler and his brother are the most important people in my life, and I would do absolutely ANYTHING to keep them safe. Having the camera in his car comes with the privilege of driving, and I believe it can be the difference between life or death.
I’m not being dramatic. You see, my sister died driving her car before she turned 21. A system like this could have saved her life.
Is the camera intrusive? I don’t think so. It only comes on when he does something to trigger it, which gives immediate feedback. When the red light comes on, and he notices, I can tell by the look on his face he knows he was just “caught” making a mistake.
I think of it this way. It’s as though I’m whispering in his ear, “Hey. That was wrong. Next time, you’ll get it right. By the way, I love you.”
Editor's note: In observance of National Teen Driver Safety Week (Oct. 20-26), American Family encourages all motorists to commit themselves to safe driving practices. A great starting point is our online Safe Driving Pledge, where you agree to follow six commonsense practices that will help protect you, your passengers and those with whom you share the road.
When I first met Emily Anhalt, I was struck by how calm she was. She was a very mellow individual despite all that had happened to her. Now more than ever, I know the strength of the neighborhood girl who grew up across the street from me.
Since she was two-and-a-half years old, Emily has been battling Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis, or FSGS, a kidney disease that has put her through multiple surgeries and infections. Recently, she’s had an even greater stay in the hospital (since the beginning of this year).
But Emily is a survivor. And a dreamer.
She has inspired the Waunakee, Wis., community. At the Waunakee Community High School graduation, the class of 2013 wore orange ribbons on their gowns in Emily's honor, since she couldn’t join them. There are orange signs in the front yards of many homes in Waunakee, with a kidney shape around the words “Orange4Emily”, the title of an organization started to raise funds for her medical bills and kidney illness awareness overall.
My dream is to get Emily's favorite band, One Direction, to visit her at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wis. The band is on a North American tour, and they’ll be coming through Madison sometime between July 13 and July 18.
The boys of One Direction wrote a book about their life stories and rise to fame. Emily is inspired by their stories and dreams of writing an autobiography as well. If she’s able to meet them, she’ll be newly energized to publish her story, and get her message out there for other kids fighting chronic and life-threatening illnesses.
By getting One Direction to Emily, I want to make sure another American Dream is met. It's also what my company stands for.
Emily’s dream is not just her own, but the dream of her family, her friends, the hospital staff and her community. Now we're taking that dream on as our own.
You can help! Use social media to share Emily's story. I've even written a few tweets you could send - and share with Emily's favorite band - One Direction:
Sometimes a dream passes from an individual to a community (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm
Help us help Emily reach for her dreams despite FSGS (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm
Survivors are beautiful. Em is a survivor. Beautiful people do not just happen (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm
Emily’s a BIG fan. She’d love to see 1D to help move her towards her dreams (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm
RT if you know of Em’s strength and dream (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm
One community, one family, one girl, one dream (link to this blog) #1DMeetEm
Send your tweets to these people to generate the buzz we need to bring One Direction to Emily!
@ModestMgmt (One Direction’s management company)
@paulyhiggins (One Direction’s tour manager)
@onedirection (the band)
@Harry_Styles (Harry Styles, band member)
@zaynmalik (Zayn Malik, band member)
@Real_Liam_Payne (Liam Payne, band member)
@NiallOfficial (Niall Horan, band member)
@Louis_Tomlinson (Louis Tomlinson, band member).
Tweet as many times a day as you want. Tweet at as many different band members as you want. My only request is if the band or its management show any interest in meeting Emily, please direct them to me at email@example.com.
Thank you so much for your support and tweets!
Let’s make Emily's dream come true.
American Family Insurance strongly encourages safe driving practices, and we want to lead by example. This spring, we’ve instituted a cell phone usage policy that basically states employees may not use a cell phone or other mobile device to perform work when operating a motor vehicle. Hands-free devices are not encouraged but allowed if for essential company business if not in violation of local laws.
I helped develop that policy after seeing compelling research that provides strong proof that the use of cell phones while driving is a significant distraction to drivers.
To be honest, I thought the few seconds it takes to text, scan a message or have a conversation on a cell phone while driving was relatively harmless. After all, I’m an experienced driver. I was capable of multitasking. I felt I was doing pretty well by limiting where and when I used my cell phone while driving.
After I read the National Safety Council (NSA) research on the hazards of a distracted brain, that all changed.
These were the top three shockers from the report:
Multitasking is a myth. Human brains do not perform two tasks at the same time. Instead, the brain switches between one task and another. Brains can do this very rapidly which leads us to erroneously believe we are doing two tasks at the same time.
The brain not only juggles tasks, it juggles focus and attention. When people attempt to perform two complex tasks at the same time such as driving and talking on a phone, the brain shifts its focus.
Reaction-time switching costs. Research studying the impact of talking on cell phones while driving has identified tangible and measurable slowed reaction times to potential hazards.
Since then, I’ve become very aware of others driving while using cell phones. They’re the ones whose speed is constantly changing, and they sometimes swerve like they’re under the influence. I can pick out these drivers about 90 percent of the time.
Those are just the talkers. People texting and driving are even scarier! All of these drivers increase the possibility of causing a severe injury to themselves and others and I don’t want to be one of them.
If this research was not enough to convince me to change my habits, the new 16-year-old driver in my household is. Setting a good example by staying off my phone is important.
So what can we do besides put policies in place? Be aware of the risk to yourself and others when you’re distracted. Put your phone on silent when driving, use a hands-free device or, if possible, just pull over off the road. If you’re really passionate, you can contact your elected officials and push them to put laws in place to ban texting and talking while driving.
I’ll be the first to admit this behavior can be hard to change. But it’s safe to say this change is a “good call.”
April is distracted driving awareness month. Join me and commit to safer driving habits - today and every day.