By Jennifer Geiger on October 14, 2012
If the thought of your teen getting behind the wheel scares you, one look at the statistics will make that feeling really hit home: In 2010, more than 4,500 young drivers were involved in fatal car crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
It's an ongoing problem. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Research Institute reports that one in five ninth- through 11th-graders has been involved in at least one crash as a passenger in the past year. Research from AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety is just as alarming. It found that drivers aged 16 to 17 are involved in seven times as many crashes per mile driven than drivers in their 40s, 50s or 60s.
In 2007, Congress enacted National Teen Driver Safety Week to raise awareness about the issue. During the third week of every October (the 14-20 this year), several safety organizations launch programs to encourage safe driving for teen drivers and passengers.
One week isn't enough, however, leading several automakers to offer in-car monitoring and safety systems that can help your teen stay safe behind the wheel.
OnStar Family Link
This optional OnStar service allows parents to log in to the Family Link website and see their car's location on a map using the Vehicle Locate feature. Subscribers also can receive emails or text messages to alert them about a car's location with Vehicle Location Alert. The frequency of the alerts is controlled by the subscriber.
Cost: $3.99 a month, but OnStar subscription is required.
Availability: It's available on all GM vehicles. Click here for more information.
Ford says MyKey "keeps an eye on teenage drivers when you're not there." MyKey allows parents to program limits on the vehicle's speed and audio volume. The settings are specific to the key and take effect as soon as the car is started. It also allows parents to block explicit satellite radio channels and encourages seat belt use by programing in a constant chiming sound if passengers don't buckle up. Other programmable safety settings include making sure systems like Active Park Assist, blind spot warning and traction control systems can never be disabled.
Availability: MyKey debuted as standard equipment on the 2010 Ford Focus and Taurus and is now standard on almost all Ford and Lincoln models. Click here for more information.
Hyundai Blue Link's Geo-Fence, Curfew and Speed Alert
This feature is part of Blue Link’s Essentials Package. It allows parents to define the area the car can be used in as well as set speed limits and curfew hours for the car. When the car leaves the allowed driving area, goes above the set speed limit or is used after curfew, the parent is notified via email, text message or automated phone message.
Cost: $179 a year ($14.91 a month)
Availability: It's available on all Hyundai vehicles. Click here for more information.
Teen safety should be an ongoing conversation in every family. For tips about how to talk to your teen about being a safe driver and passenger, check out the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Ride Like a Friend program.
Cars.com Editor Jennifer Newman contributed to this post.
Assistant Managing Editor Jennifer Geiger is a reviewer, car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats, many of them while driving a minivan. Email Jennifer