You wouldn’t let a novice with less than sixty hours experience operate a two tonne piece of heavy machinery unsupervised, would you? “Of course not!” you reply, not realizing that many of us do at least once a week. Ask yourself this: what do you think you’re doing if you let your teenage offspring borrow your car?
Okay, so maybe that’s a bit reactionary. You probably think I’m one of these people who want to ban everyone under the age of 30 from driving. That’s not true, mostly because I’m twenty-three and was a teenage driver. I’ve had more than my fair share of stupid, naive accidents behind the wheel and I feel comforted that I, unlike a few less fortunate friends, have made it into my twenties
Why, you ask? Because the sad fact is, teenagers are more than four times likely to have an accident than adults, accounting for more than 3,000 automobile fatalities a year in the U.S. It’s so bad, in fact, that’s it’s considered one of the leading causes of death among 15- to 19-year-olds. No wonder so many parents feel powerless in protecting their kids on the road.
There is a few rays of hope, however. American Family, an insurance company based in Wisconsin, has been offering its Teen Safe Driver Program since 2007. The program involves fitting a DriverCam camera behind a car’s windshield, which looks both forward and aft so it can monitor the teen driver and the road outside.
The program pays for the cameras, installation and a monthly service fee, and enrolled families receive a discount on their auto insurance. In the event of aggressive driving – such as swerving suddenly or slamming on the brakes – the cameras record 20 seconds of footage that parents can then see on DriveCam’s website. And it would appear to work – American Family reports that it reduces risky driving by up to seventy percent.
The idea is that the cameras will encourage kids to stay on the straight and narrow, and as a learning tool where parents can teach their kids driving skills and correct poor driving behavior. And there’s more.
The Tiwi is a vehicle-integrated tracking device that monitors a vehicle’s location and speed, the posted speed limit and the driver’s seat belt usage. It then gives audible coaching to tell the driver to slow down. Ford is also implementing parental controls that can limit the top speed of its vehicles to 80 mph and reduce the maximum volume the radio can be set at.
One thing’s for sure, we all better get used to electronic oversight in our vehicles. By 2013, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration will be mandating the installation of aircraft-style black boxes that record vital vehicle data before, during and after an accident. Regardless of what you think about invasion of privacy and consumer rights, you have to agree: if it genuinely saves lives and reduces accidents, it’s probably a good thing.
By Tristan Hankins