WARNING

BLACK BOX ON BOARD


Car Black BoxFor years, Larry Selditz’s company, ROAD SAFETY INTERNATIONAL, sold a system that monitored the driving of emergency vehicle workers, such as firefighters and paramedics.


So when his son turned 15 ½ and got his driving permit,-------- it was no surprise that Selditz installed one of the SafeForce “black boxes” in his car. And it was no surprise that his company began making the devices available to other parents who wanted to monitor their teens’ driving habits, even when they weren’t in the vehicle with them.


“Teens drive aggressively like drivers of emergency vehicles, hut they lack the experience, which puts them at very high risk,” Selditz said in a recent interview. “We’ve tested SafeForce extensively with 15- to 1 9-vear-olds and without exception we’ve seen significant improvements in driving performance almost immediately.” (Wonder why?)


The company’s device sells for $280, connects to the vehicle’s on-hoard computer and even provides printouts that parents can review with their teen drivers. The device also emits warning sounds to let teens know when they speed or perform some other dangerous maneuver. But not everyone thinks installing a monitoring device in a teen’s vehicle is the answer. Some traffic safety organizations say the best way to make sure teen drivers are behaving safely behind the wheel is for parents to monitor them in person and set limits for times those teens drive alone.


STATISTICS ON TEENS ARE ALARMING! It’s no wonder parents are worried. Crashes are the No. I cause of death for teens — more than 5,900 died in 2002, often while their peers were driving. Another 300,000 were injured, some of them seriously, in crashes. And based on miles traveled, the death rate for those ages 16-19 is four times higher than for drivers 25-69. This is in spite of technological advancements and legal requirements (seat belts, air bags, improved crash standards(, graduated licensing programs in 30 states that mandate more parental involvement, and tougher drunk driving laws. Driver training has become more sophisticated, but teens are notoriously resistant to any education. All of which leaves many parents wondering what to do. Some choose to install monitoring devices. Typically, the devices plug into the electronic systems found in all cars and trucks manufactured since 1996 and are placed in areas so that the driver is unaware they are installed. The boxes can record seat-belt use, speeds at which the vehicle traveled, fast -pedal-to-the-metal” starts and whether the driver corners or brakes hard.


They can emit loud beeps if the driver is driving unsafely, to help retrain awareness. Most allow parents to download the information later and discuss problem areas with their teen driver. The basic black boxes, made by: Alltrack USA www.alltrackusa.com,

                    Davis Instruments wwwdavisnet.com/drive

                    Road Safety & Smart Driver www.smart-driver.com

                              are priced $139 to $635.


Two of the most sophisticated systems use the Global Positioning Satellite to allow parents to see the vehicle’s location on a computer. Alltrack’s Real-Time Tracking costs $425 and a monthly usage fee of $8.50 to $29. AVL Global Inc.’s Chaperone-

www.whereismycar.com costs $350, plus $4.95 to $149.95 annually, based on expected use. Manufacturers report that teens are shocked at what shows up on the recorders, which often contradicts how safely they thought they were driving.


ALTERNATIVES TO THE BLACK BOX


Of course, there are many steps parents can take other than adding a monitoring device. Simply spending more time in the vehicle while your teen is driving is a good start, safety experts say.    Parents should also set ground rules for when and where the teen can drive, and with whom. Statistics show the most dangerous times for teens are late nights and weekends and when other teens are passengers in the vehicles.


Parents can also take advantage of additional training, such as the kind offered by Farmers’ award-winning You’re Essential to Safety, or Y.E.S., program, free through Farmers agents. The program includes a movie and accompanying workbook, as well as a driving contract for both parents and teens to sign. YES, is having a strong impact among teen drivers.”‘Since I started requiring new drivers to spend an hour watching this 13-minute film and filling out the workbook three years ago, there’s been a very significant reduction in teen accidents among my clients,” says lohn Ostrowski, a Farmers agent in Woodhury, Minn., and the father of two teenage daughters. The video is especially convincing, he says, because the

testimonies on the film are from teens who were in serious accidents not adults wagging their fingers at young people about what might happen. Watching the film and interacting in a group with the workbook is especially effective in creating peer pressure for better driving habits, he believes.


The workbook, Wrecked: Life and Death on the Road, provides startling statistics, gripping anecdotes, important information and relevant graphics on subjects such as seat-belt -use, injuries, tailgating, the stopping distance required at certain speeds, road rage, drunk driving and the risks of being distracted by cellphone conversations. Ostrowski also points out that anyone who goes through the Y.E.S. program may earn a discount on their insurance premiurns. Because many students have to pay at least part of their insurance cost, that incentive definitely gets their attention. “Farmers has put together a phenomenal program with YE.S.,” he says.


Scott S. Smith is a freelance writer and author.


SOURCE:

Fall 2004, FRIENDLY EXCHANGE



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