Car Cameras Give Parents a Look at Their Teen's Driving Habits

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When it comes to teens and driving, instructor Pat Dunlavy says attentiveness is rare.

"You'll see teens going down the road and 90 percent of the time if there's two people in the car, the one with the cell phone is the driver," he said.

And while parents know about those habits, until now they couldn't prove them. So a Madison-based insurance company is offering them a new tool, a camera agents say will catch risky behavior and fight dangerous driving.

"They know that if there's a behavior they're going to learn about it and they're going to know about it," American Family Insurance Agent Linda Olson said.

The small camera attaches behind the rear-view mirror and records what happens inside the car, ten seconds before and ten seconds after any sudden jolt or acceleration. That data is transmitted wirelessly, analyzed each night and assigned a risk score.

"Then a compilation of all those incidents is transmitted to the website and the parent and child can sit down and look at that rating," Olson said.

And with car crashes remaining the leading cause of death for US teens, Dunlavy says the cameras will start a lifesaving discussion.

"They'll not only educate the student driving, they can educate the parent as to what's going on and maybe even improve some of their skills," he said.

According to American Family Insurance, a pilot program involving 60 families from Wisconsin and Minnesota, found risky driving behaviors dropped by 70 percent and seat belt use reached 100 percent.

Olson says most students are skeptical at first, but quickly realize the camera is a valuable tool.

"They look at the results and they start to realize what they're doing and they correct that behavior themselves," she said.

Helping students and parents curb deadly driving together.

The cameras are currently available free of charge to American Family Insurance customers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Indiana.