5 On Your Side

Black box lets parents see how teens really drive

Posted May 7, 2009

If only teens' parents could see how they drive, perhaps teenagers would be a little more cautious.

That's the goal of a new black-box device for cars that monitors the driving habits of teens, from speed to seat belt use to sudden braking.

"I absolutely love driving," said teen Tyler Kellog, who participated in an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study of the black boxes.

Monitoring device curbs teens’ bad driving habits Monitoring device curbs teens' bad driving habits

With Tyler's shiny, black convertible, driving too fast is easy. But when he speeds or does something else wrong, the monitoring device beeps and notifies his parents.

"I went over the speed limit, like 50 times in a week or something. It was really, really bad," Tyler said. "My mom talked to me about it and scolded me, because she gets e-mail updates periodically. And that really helps stop me.

"And she threatened to ground me, take away my car if it didn't go down," he added.

Tyler's mother, Paige Kellog, also thought the device was helpful.

"I think for him the monitoring device served as a reminder, maybe on a constant basis. And it wasn't his mom or dad saying, 'Slow down, put your seat belt on, turn here, or don't brake so hard,'" she said.

The IIHS study suggests that the devices work.

The study found that the in-vehicle monitor improved seat belt usage by almost 100 percent. It also decreased sudden braking and reduced speeding by 50 percent.

"Teens don't always recognize all the risks of driving, and they don't think anything bad is going to happen to them," said Dr. Anne McCartt, with IIHS. "However, our study shows that they may shape up behind the wheel when they know their parents are watching."

Peace of mind for parents comes with a hefty price tag. The unit costs $500 plus a usage fee of $30 per month.

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  • eternalrage83 May 13, 2009

    And how many teenagers will just find a way to modify this thing to either stop sending updates or to send out only the updates they want. I can see a huge underground market for hacking these things for teenagers if this black box takes off.

  • bigredtruckman May 12, 2009

    I don't think my parents would have been surprised at how I drove as a teenager. They were good drivers, they're the ones that taught me how to drive, and I drove just like them.

    My dad even took me out into an empty field in an old beater car and taught me how to power slide (drifting as they call it today), do reverse to forward slides, how to steer into a skid, etc. That way, if the car ever did get out of control, I'd know how to handle it.

  • kittiboo May 11, 2009

    I wonder if you can get an insurance break if you have something like this in your car? I think it is a great idea, if the parents actually follow through with it. Of course, I doubt you'd spend that much $$ if you weren't going to monitor it.

  • texasncgirl May 11, 2009

    Interesting concept. As for "travised" comment that teenagers aren't experts and it takes time...of course it takes time and I don't think that this "black box" is supposed to instantly make them experts..it's just to teach them that they must be concious of their driving habits AS they learn.

  • thefensk May 11, 2009

    "black box" reminds me of that old joke about putting black boxes in SUVs. The recordings on the boxes in Texas driver's crashes usually have "here, ya'll hold my beer and watch this ..." as the last entry.

  • Travised May 8, 2009

    Put that in Mom and Dad's car... Even in DOT or DPS (public safety) persons cars and see what happens. It will show that the MAJORITY of drivers exceed the speed limits. Depending on the roads, lane changes may have to be abrupt at times.

    Rookie drivers however are the ones that will be reckless and see "how fast" their car can go at some time; out of the entire sampling group.

    You can't expect new drivers to be experts behind the wheel. It takes time.