Product Review: Big Brother-worthy device helps your teen become a ‘SafeDriver’Budgeteer editor Matthew R. Perrine takes a look at SafeDriver, a tamper-proof device that measures how fast and how far a vehicle has been driven (and how many times its driver slammed on the brakes).
Dear angst-ridden teenager: You won’t want your parents reading this article.
Recently I had the pleasure of checking out SafeDriver, a simple-to-install, tamper-proof device that measures how fast and how far a vehicle has been driven. In other words, every 16-year-old’s worst nightmare. (And, as it turns out, the bane of my fiancée’s — aka my test subject’s — existence….)
References to George Orwell’s “1984” notwithstanding, this is actually an ingenious product that can help your teen (or anyone, really) stay accountable behind the wheel.
The product has two components: a sensor that plugs into your vehicle’s on-board diagnostics port and a key fob (which doesn’t stay with you but attaches to the driver’s keychain) that records all of the outgoing data.
That’s it. Two pieces. There are no wires, you don’t need any tools to install it and, best of all, a computer never enters the picture.*
Here are the rest of my findings on SafeDriver:
• It actually works. I know this should be a given, but I had my doubts when I first saw that it oh-so-effortlessly plugs into vehicles’ OBD-II ports and doesn’t require any fancy tracking software to install. On my test drives, it told me exactly how fast I drove (grandma speed), how far I drove and how many times I didn’t slam on the brakes. (Again, I drive like an old lady….)
• It’s almost too easy to use. Again, I’ll reiterate the big selling points for those who aren’t good with technology and/or cars: No tools required. No computer needed. No wires.
• SafeDriver’s TripReports can’t be messed with. The key fob is PIN-protected, so if your teen/research subject tries to reset the values after a close call or two, the aforementioned “TAMPER” will be displayed so you know they are trying to hide something.
• It’s universal. As long as your car or truck was manufactured for 1996 or later, this plug-and-play product will work with your vehicle. Better yet, it will also work in most vehicles driven by your teen’s friends. So, if little Johnny or Sally is going on a roadtrip — to “check out a college” or, in reality, hit up the Cities for a Lady Gaga concert — you can get your Big Brother on with the friends’ parents.
• It’s universal. Because SafeDriver is a one-size-fits-all product, you might run into some issues jamming it into your car’s OBD-II port. The port on my test subject’s car had a plastic cover and the SafeDriver sensor didn’t fit into the slot with the cover still on, so I had to totally rip off the cover. It doesn’t look that bad with SafeDriver in place, but, should I ever choose to remove the product…. (By the way, my test subject doesn’t know I sacrificed her OBD-II port’s covering for the sake of journalism — and she’s a little perturbed she has to drive like I’m in the car even when I’m not — so I’d appreciate it if you all remembered that “mum’s the word.”)
• It’s a little soft in the brake department. As I mentioned earlier, SafeDriver’s TripReport records how many times the driver under the microscope slammed on the brakes. To test this out, I slammed on the brakes. (Much to the chagrin of my test-subject passenger and our poor dog.) It didn’t register. Turns out, what qualifies as a “sudden brake” is the vehicle’s speed being reduced by 15 mph in less than two seconds. In my book, that’s not a sudden brake but an instance of “centimeters from death.” Inattentive drivers shouldn’t be given so much leniency.
• Contrary to SafeDriver’s advertised “peace of mind,” you probably won’t get a good night’s sleep until your darling angel is at least 25 years old. There are just some things you don’t want to know.
Combined with tracking software that utilizes GPS technology, like Google’s Latitude, SafeDriver truly allows you to "ride shotgun" with your teenager, even when you’re sitting safely at home.
… But you don’t have to take my word for it
See www.lemurmonitors.com for more information on this product, or watch this promotional video about SafeDriver to see what it’s all about:
*Yes, I understand the irony of writing this in an online product review, but it’s nice to know that not every single product currently sold in the world somehow requires you to use your computer or some online application to make it work.