MONITORING TEEN DRIVERS

Our brother-in-law used to race toward the next traffic light, brake hard, and scare the living daylights out of Joy when he was a teenager. Too bad the Car Chip wasn’t around then: His driving could have been monitored.

The Car Chip is easy to install. You plug it into the car’s On Board Diagnostic Port, which is in every car sold after 1996. Don’t know where that port is? Neither did we, but we found it’s just under the dash to the right of the steering wheel and easy to reach. The OBDP, as the mechanics call it, is the very place to plug in the chip that will track a person’s driving habits — as well as diagnose the car’s engine efficiency.

It is not a spying device, as it’s quite visible stuck there under the dash. Of course, if someone isn’t paying particular attention to how a dashboard looks, there’s nothing unusual about it either. After you or anyone else has been driving around, unplug the Car Chip and plug it into your computer with the supplied USB cable. Graphs will give provide the driver’s behavior, even down to what was happening during the last 20 seconds before a crash.

Data can be collected continuously for up to 300 hours, using any four parameters you choose out of 23. Some of those parameters can be preset. For example, the Chip can be set to give drivers a warning beep when they go over a certain speed limit. This can be especially helpful with new drivers. (Experience counts: studies show that after the first 1500 driving hours, the risk of a crash drops by two-thirds.) 

The Car Chip also gives info about the car itself. For example, it will tell if the fuel injector needs cleaning, the car is likely to fail its emissions test or the cooling system isn’t working properly.

Now for the cons. The Car Chip doesn’t know who’s driving, so you need to reset it every time the driver changes. It works with most cars, but not every model. Luckily, Amazon has an easy return policy. We found it there for $76. More info at carchip.com.

An alternative is SafeDriver from Lemur Vehicles. We saw it discounted for $70. It has a “tamper” control that lets you know if the driver has tried to disable it by removing the batteries or unplugging it. It reports on speed, sudden braking, and distance traveled, and can be reset for each trip.

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