Summer is winding down, but every day more and more teenagers are out on the road. There is perhaps no bigger worry for parents than their teens’ safety when they get behind the wheel, and for good reason. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 2,600 teenagers were killed and more than 130,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2013. Alcohol use, not wearing seatbelts, speeding, and distracted driving were all cited as leading causes of teenage driver accidents.
But help is available. While practice, awareness, and education are the most effective strategies to help teens develop safe driving habits, car manufacturers are also rolling out new technology to help keep your teen safe.
Ford was first to market when it introduced Ford MyKey® in 2010. Now standard on more than 6 million Ford and Lincoln vehicles, MyKey is a programmable system that keeps the radio muted until seat belts are buckled. It also includes a speed alert that chimes at 45, 55, and 65 miles per hour to remind teens to slow down and allows parents to limit the vehicle’s top speed to 65, 70, 75, or 80 miles per hour. A “Do Not Disturb” feature blocks incoming phone calls and text messages when teens are behind the wheel.
GM followed suit with the Chevrolet Teen Driver system, which mutes the audio or any device paired with the vehicle when front-seat occupants aren’t wearing their seatbelts. It also provides audio and visual warnings when the vehicle travels over pre-set speeds (between 40 and 75 miles per hour). A “report card” display on the vehicle’s video screen allows parents to view how their teenager operated the vehicle. It displays data such as maximum speed reached, distance driven and number of times active safety features were engaged.
“We developed [the Teen Driver] system so parents could use it as a teaching tool with their kids — they can discuss and reinforce safe driving habits,” said General Motors safety engineer Mary Ann Beebe in a statement. “As a mother of two, I know anything that has the potential of keeping one’s family safer is of great value to parents.”
Ultimately, though, parents are the biggest influence on their teen’s safety behind the wheel. If you have a teenage driver at home, take the time to talk with your child about the importance of safe driving habits.
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By Christopher Huntemann