Oh Brother, Where Art Though Driving?

Youth Specialties
May 8th, 2009

As summer approaches millions of teenage drivers are preparing for unsupervised time behind the wheel of the family car. Just thinking back to those summers of new found freedom makes me want to hum a song by John Mellencamp or . But a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety may cause students to feel more free than they really are. [Here’s the link to IIHS study] The IIHS has been studying the effectiveness of adding black box-styled GPS devices to the cars of teenagers. This would allow parents to track their childs location with the family minivan as well as tracking speed, acceleration, braking, and seatbelt usage. The study cites some positive and negative results of their study. On the positive end of things, students who had systems giving them audio feedback when they failed to fasten their seatbelt or drove above the speed limit, drove more safely by the end of the study. The negative, even though parents had access to the information via a website few cared enough about the program to look at the data despite being paid $500! While its still too early to see if this program will truly take off, it is of note that insurance companies are studying this. If they feel it is necessary to have a black box in the cars of teenage drivers, they can force the issue by tying the box to monthly premiums in much the same way they already do driving record and a students grades. The cynical side of me says, “Great, just another way to convert helicopter parents to satelite parents! Isn’t it enough that they can call their child at any moment of any day?” The realist in me says, “If they require this system it will take high school students about 2 days to figure out how to disable it.” The pragmatist in me says, “Well, if it really does cause students to be better drivers let’s study it some more.” The geek in me says, “Maybe I could create a Google maps plug-in so we could watch teen drivers all around the world in real time!The report concludes by examining data about the age of new drivers. While this black box system may be a good idea, there is much more evidence that with better training and fine-tuned graduated driving systems such as those in Europe, we may be able to create a training system that teaches students to become better drivers without requiring vehicle tracking. What do you think? Black boxes for drivers under 18 years old a good idea or bad idea? HT to Andrew

Youth Specialties

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