IIHS: Black Boxes for Teenage Drivers Help Improve Driving Habits

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety issued a report today saying it found “promising results” in a recent study conducted using devices to monitor teens’ driving habits.

In the study, 84 teens in the Washington, D.C. area had the device implanted in their cars and drove with it for 24 weeks. The devices used GPS to track the teens, how quickly the teens accelerated, braked, when they didn’t wear seat belts and if they exceeded the speed limit. Some of the devices were equipped to beep when the drivers didn’t wear seat belts, andalso beeped progressively louder the farther the teens exceeded the speed limit.

Parents are able to view all the information recorded in their teens’ monitoring device via a secure website. Some parents were able to see the data in real time while other devices issuedan audible warning and gave the driver 20 seconds to correct his or her mistake. If the mistake was not corrected in the allotted time, the parents were notified.

Some parents were eager to participate in the study and loved seeing how their children were actually driving. “When I’m with her, my daughter drives differently than when she’s with her friends,” said Kathy Paxton, whose daughter participated in the study. “You really don’t know how they’re driving until you have a monitor in their car. It was an eye opener. I would love to have my other daughter who’s going to be driving soon have it in her car.”

However, it seems most parents were not as enthused about equipping the device. “At first it was tough finding families willing to participate until we added a $500 payment to compensate them for their time,” said Anne McCartt, vice president for research at the institute. “Part of the problem may be that the monitoring technology is relatively new, so parents and teens weren’t familiar with it. Their reluctance signals that more widespread use of these devices may turn out to be a tough sell.”

While the system sounds Big Brother-ish and may be a nightmare to teen drivers, parents may well appreciate it. Ford certainly thinks so, as it offers the new ‘MyKey’ system in select 2009 models. The MyKey feature allows parents to set maximum stereo volumes, speed limits, mute the volume if seatbelts aren’t buckled, and alert the teens when they reach a certain speed.

Source: IIHS