How to Make Your Teenager Crazy: Track and Record His Driving

Ford MyKey

It’s only a pilot, but 10,000 of GM’s OnStar subscribers will participate in a test program called Family Link. This tracks the exact location of a teen’s car on a map and sends parents text messages and emails concerning its movements and whether it’s speeding.

Ford’s MyKey system (shown above) is worse. It limits speed to 80 mph, adjusts or mutes stereo volume, can block stations and disables Bluetooth for cell-phone use. Parents love it, and so do insurance companies. Did anybody ask the kids?

More intrusive still is the DriveCam, an onboard video recorder that sends clips of “erratic vehicle movements” (plus what happened 10 seconds before and after) to parents via wireless. The insurance companies, e.g., American Family, love this one even more and will pay for its cost and installation, plus discounting your premium.

Everyone knows about the problems with teen driving, but I submit this ain’t the way to solve them. Or build trust in your kids.

DriveCam

DriveCam video monitor

My theory is that parents generally cause 90 percent of their kids’ problems, certainly regarding driving. First, they don’t take the time and effort to train them or get them to understand the risks in driving a 2-ton car at any speed. Second, new cars have way too many built-in distractions. Three, why single out teens? Apply the logic of these controls to other high-risk driving groups, like geezers and drunks.

Limiting speeds in a blanket fashion could in some cases cause an accident. Limiting stereo choices will just encourage teens to burn a CD-R with the music they like or plug in an iPod. Blocking Bluetooth will just encourage other workarounds. See some of the comments here, particularly JJ’s. [Note that some of JJ’s words are stronger than you’d find on this blog.]

These monitoring devices are available only in newer cars, and parents should consider giving their teens a cheap, safe beater to learn on. JJ comments that he learned on an old “piece of crap Colt,” which, you can bet, had plenty of built-in limitations.

I have three boys and spent a lot of time teaching them how to drive. The oldest got my wife’s aging 1977 Ford Fiesta, which he drove across the country, where it finally rusted out. My youngest kid got my old Fiero when he got his license, and he wasn’t about to break any Nürburgring speed records with that. The middle guy bought himself an ’83 Datsun Sentra (so-called) and suffered with it for five years.

They loved those cars, with all their limitations. What kind of weird entitlement craziness are we creating by giving teens new cars to drive, then limiting their options?

Do devices and systems like MyKey and DriveCam really provide a way to control teen driving habits?

—jgoods

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1 Comment

  1. Given the teen behavior I see so frequently on the roads, this technology isn’t a bad idea. You mention 90% of the problems can be laid at parent’s feet, and I agree– many parents need these kinds of controls as well. I’d like to see a lot more technology employed on our roads, like automated speeding and red light tickets. I’d also support a “demerit” program that would trigger additional driver training (at the driver’s expense, of course) before bigger penalties kick in. The use of laser and in-pavement sensors could invalidate most radar detectors, making such systems more effective.

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