5 On Your Side

Black box lets parents see how teens really drive

Posted May 7, 2009 3:55 p.m. EDT
Updated May 7, 2009 6:42 p.m. EDT

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.

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.