Sunday, March 19, 2006

Good or bad - in-car video

A couple of weeks ago in Raleigh there was an accident that killed four teenagers. They were coming home from a basketball game, and the driver was going about 100 MPH in an RX-8. He went out of control on an exit ramp and flipped over a wall. The car fell about 50 feet to the ground below and exploded.

There was much coverage of the accident, and one parent asked the question: We have parental controls on AOL accounts and TV programs - why not on cars that our teenagers drive?

There seem to be two technologies designed to keep an eye on teenagers and detect when they are having problems as new drivers. One of them is in-car GPS-based vehicle tracking systems. Lots of companies sell these systems, and here is one example:

AllTrack USA

One quote from the site: "­Speed Threshold Alert- Alerts you when, where, and by how much a vehicle speeds. Tell your teen to neverdrive over, say, 60 miles per hour in the car. You'll know right away if they ever do !!" There are lots of other variations on the theme offered by these companies.

Another system is called DriveCam. It places a camera in the car that can store video into flash memory, and uses an accelerometer to decide when to record information. Anytime there is a sudden maneuver (turning, braking, bumping), it will set off the accelerometer and 10 seconds of video pre- and post-incident gets recorded. This video from CNN shows the system in use.

Combining these two systems would create an environment that would make it very un-fun to be a teen with a car, but it would be likely to significantly decrease the number of accidents.

Looking back, I thought it was my right to be able to drive at 16. Now I have realized that there are very few 16 out there that are mature and experienced enough to drive 2 tons of steel around at high rates of speed.

Personally, I think that perhaps raising the driving age or providing some sort of maturity test instead of a driving test would be a better solution...
I would love to see what would be the questions on a "maturity test". It would have a lot of uses if an accurate test existed.

For that matter, I would like to know what I would score on a maturity test.
I think it would probably have to be questions like "Are you aware of your own mortality" and being hooked up to a lie detector...

The logistics of administering this would be intense.

I am glad to know there are other parents out there who are as concerned as I am about the safety of teen drivers. I have a 16 yr. old, and I had concerns about how she was driving when she was alone. I found a company you have not mentioned called DriverIQ ( They offer a program like "How's My Driving?", but for teens. They offer an annual price of $90. What I like about the program is that it motivates my daughter to drive safe because she knows I have the community's help to look after her. I also like the fact that motorists can notify me when they see anything that I need to know to help protect her too. Last month I received a call from from DriverIQ letting me know that someone had noticed my teen's tires were low in the rear. I called her and told her to pull over at the next gas station. Problem solved! The other thing I like is that I will be notified when I receive reports immediately by phone and email. I don't have to stop what I am doing and go retrieve the information from a device in her car. I know that may sound lazy, but life is soo fast it's hard to always stop what you are doing, to download information into a report, and then try to decipher what I need to address with my teen due to braking and acceleration events. I have a friend whose son had the car chip and it told him that his teen was drivig 35-45 mph, but it took a neighboor to tell him that his son was going that fast in our neighborhood! With DriverIQ, they contact me with the information so I can choose when to address the behavior that needs correcting. For my daugther, it was a little embarassing at first, but she knows that I love her and as long as she is driving safely, she won't receive reports. If she doesn't, I'll know about it and we will work together to make her a safer driver. We always talk about where she is going before she leaves the house. We set ground rules for the trip. So I don't have a tracking device, we leave that part up to trust. But she is a new driver and is going to need my help. That's why I'm glad I chose DriverIQ.
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