Insurance Program Spurs Dialogue with Teens

When a teenager starts driving, it can be a rocky road for both parents and their new teen drivers. But a major insurance company recently introduced a new concept that can make this transition easier. And it's not just a new insurance policy, either. Instead, the new program, called Teensurance, is a combination of technology and services that is designed to create a safer environment for young drivers, while offering new levels of peace of mind for parents. By providing educational tools, the program allows parents to have a different kind of conversation with their teens about driving and the responsibilities that come with a driver's license.

At the heart of the program is an on-board GPS and notification technology -- the Safety Beacon. With the satellite-based position-reporting technology installed in the teen's car, this bundle of tools enables families to take active steps to monitor their teen's behavior behind the wheel. Parents can set speed, distance and curfew limitations for their teen drivers, while the system gives parents constant access to the whereabouts of their teens' vehicles and notification so they know immediately if their teen drivers are in danger. This notification is transmitted in real time to parents' computers, home phones, cell phones or other mobile devices when limits are exceeded.

Teensurance encourages parents and teens to have conversations so they can mutually set "safe driving" zones to gradually ease new drivers into the driving scene as they gain experience. It offers them insights into teen driving attitudes via the TeenDASH assessment and it provides an easily downloadable parent/teen contract and educational materials.

For teen drivers, the program offers 24/7 roadside assistance and, if they lock their keys in the car (and it has automatic door locks) they can use their mobile phone to remotely unlock the vehicle. Most importantly, by following the program, teens can prove to their parents they drive responsibly and gain additional driving privileges. 

"Teensurance has been a positive addition to our family," said Teensurance customer John D'Amato of Bradenton, Fla. D'Amato, a retired police officer from Piscataway, NJ, added, "It gives my wife and me peace of mind; we know where our son is, how he's driving and how fast. We now have an ongoing conversation about driving safety."

Safeco customers with auto insurance policies can register for Teensurance and access a secure web portal with materials and services to help them establish a safe driving plan with their teen. The online services and roadside assistance is priced at $14.99 a month. This price is guaranteed for two years for Safeco customers and includes free installation of the Safety Beacon into the teen's car. Only parents and their teens can access the driving information gathered through the Safety Beacon. Individual driver information is not available to Safeco and will not be used to calculate individual rates. Beginning in October, Safeco plans to apply insurance discounts of up to 15 percent for Teensurance customers in 39 states, while discounts in other states are pending.

Beyond its tangible benefits, Teensurance enhances the most important parenting tool: communication. By using this safety program, parents and their teens are encouraged to enter into an ongoing dialogue about good driving habits -- and that's nothing but a good thing. More information about Teensurance is available at the Teensurance Web site.

Based in Cleveland, Driving Today Contributing Editor Luigi Fraschini writes frequently on teen safety issues.