Driver evaluations raise trust questions for parents

WASHINGTON – Worried that your teen isn’t a safe driver?

For $99, a California company will evaluate your teen’s driving habits or an aging parent’s, even an employee’s.

Quest Driving Safety will assign a retired, or active duty, police officer to trail the driver covertly for 15 to 20 minutes. The officer will then draft a written report detailing whether turn signals were used, whether the driver maintained a safe distance from other vehicles or whether any cellphone calls were made.

“The reality is driving is the most dangerous act parents allow their kids to do. The parent or the business owner is a stakeholder and held ultimately responsible when their teen driver or employee is involved in a traffic collision,” the company’s website says.

Quest encourages parents to sign a driving agreement with their teen and to let them know they’re driving will be evaluated by Quest. Similarly, companies are encouraged to let their drivers know they will be randomly monitored.

Still, the company’s tactics have raised questions about privacy, trust and the realities of teen driving skills.

“I question whether I’d let my teen drive if I couldn’t trust them,” says Carolyn Adkins, of Thurmont, Md. She considers such tactics a violation of privacy.

Mark Halsey, also of Thurmont, says he doesn’t worry about his teen driver.

But Josh Keeney, of Gettysburg, Pa., says he drove wildly as a teen and crashed his car when he was 16.

“If someone was following me, I probably wouldn’t have wrecked my car, to be honest,” Keeney tells WTOP.

Brian Shatzer, of Waynesboro, Pa., argues that employers have the right to know how their workers are using, or abusing, company vehicles.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, car crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for teens, killing about 15 teens daily.

The NTSB and AAA say parents can take active steps to help their teens improve their driving skills.

  • Start your teen driver out in controlled practice driving sessions, gradually increasing the complexity of the driving. Practice in all conditions.
  • Once your teen has a license, restrict the number of passengers that can be in the car, and enforce night-time restrictions.
  • Continue to periodically ride along with your teen to review progress and ensure you are comfortable with your teen’s driving habits.
  • Gradually introduce new driving privileges.
  • Parents and guardians must model good driving.

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report. Follow Kristi and WTOP on Twitter.

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