New car safety systems will send emergency alerts when there’s a car accident and can alert parents when young drivers exceed speed and boundary limits.

Systems Let Parents Monitor Young Drivers, Sends Car Accident Alerts

When you hand the car keys to your teen, say “Drive safely,” and watch her drive away, you probably feel a mixture of trust, worry and hope that your child comes back safely. But you don’t really know whether the kid is following safe-driving rules once the car leaves your sight.

For your teen, hard-to-resist driving hazards inside the car are more dangerous than the traffic outside. Loud music, texting, calling, showing off for rowdy friends, and the teenage feeling of invincibility are bad enough, but even more dangerous when combined with beginner-level driving skills.

Technology may give you more peace of mind, though. Ford and other automakers are installing safe-driving controls that will limit risk factors when your child is at the wheel or let you know when the young driver isn’t following the rules. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, one of the country’s most-respected traffic safety laboratories, is giving one of the systems its wholehearted endorsement.

Ford MyKey System for Limiting Teen Drivers

Ford Motor Company added its MyKey system to nearly all of its vehicles in 2010, but according to IIHS, more than one-third of the vehicle owners don’t know the system exists.

The MyKey system uses a configurable key that allows a driver to use the car, but only with programmed limits. It developed the system to help not only the parents of young drivers but also rental companies that want to limit abuse of their vehicles.

MyKey’s functions vary with some models, the carmaker says. Owners should consult their manuals to see exactly what is available and how to program the system.

Perhaps its most vital feature allows owners to limit the vehicle’s top speed at 60, 70, 75, or 80 mph. When activated, chimes will sound at 45, 55, and 65 mph.

The system’s Belt-Minder feature pushes drivers and passengers to buckle up by emitting a six-second reminder chime every 30 seconds, muting the radio and flashing a dashboard message until the front-seat occupants are strapped in.

The control also lets owners screen the kids’ radio entertainment by blocking all stations that Sirius Satellite Radio labels as explicit. The system will limit the speaker volume to 44 percent of maximum.

While the carmaker’s models typically warn drivers 50 miles before their gas tanks run empty, younger drivers will get the warning at the 70-mile mark.

When activated, MyKey will prevent drivers from deactivating driving aids, such as Ford’s blind-spot information system and its cross-traffic alert feature. Owners have the option to keep the vehicle’s advanced traction feature turned on.

Only Some Parents Use Safety Controls

The safety institute, best known for its Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick Plus designations for the safest cars and trucks, surveyed 1,500 owners with at least one teenager 16-19 years old in their households. According to the survey results, the parental safety feature is catching on, despite the large number of owners who don’t even know it exists. About 57 percent said they knew about the MyKey safety system, 39 percent did not, and 4 percent weren’t sure.

About 61 percent of the survey-takers who knew about the safety system said they used it with their teenage drivers; 12 percent planned to use it in the future. Parents who don’t plan to use the system frequently explained that their child wasn’t a primary user of the car or truck. Others said they didn’t use it because their children were trustworthy.

Teen Driver Safety Systems Set Limits, Warn of Car Accidents

Other manufacturers are installing different, perhaps less-controlling safety measures, according to reporting by USA Today contributor Jennifer Jolly. Her report featured MyKey and General Motor’s “Teen Driver” system. It acts like a virtual coach inside the car cabin, allowing parents to set speed alerts and radio volume limits, and grading the teen’s driving habits. There’s no hiding the report card, which flashes on the dashboard display.

Volkswagen’s Car-Net connects your smartphone and car with a bundle of safety apps. With it, the car will send emergency alerts when there’s a car accident and can alert parents when young drivers exceed speed and boundary limits. No surreptitious midnight road trips for those kids!

If you don’t have one of these equipped cars, you can still gain an edge from technology.

License+, for Androids and iPhones, acts as a tutor for young drivers and a watchdog for their parents, USA Today says. The system connects with an adapter that users plug into their vehicles. It tracks drivers’ acceleration, driving speeds, braking, and other factors that determine good driving habits.

Rebecca Weast, the IIHS researcher who studied parents’ adoption of the Ford MyKey system, said:

“Systems like MyKey have the potential to reduce the risks faced by teen drivers by limiting speeds and distractions. […] To do the most good, more consumers need to be aware of it and to choose to activate it for their young driver.”

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