Almost daily, one could pick up a newspaper, turn on the radio or television news, click on the internet to find the distressing story of another fatal crash, involving teens. It might be a loved one, classmate or someone you are acquainted with from the local area.
One might think with the more compact four cylinder cars on the roads today, attaining excessive speeds would be a bit difficult. Try setting beside Highway 63 near the Arkansas/Missouri line on any given day or night, as autos leave the stoplight of Highway 19 intersection, to top the hill going into Arkansas. The straight highway both to and from the state line could sometimes be thought of as a drag strip. Topping the hill northbound and using the downgrade momentum, even the lowest powered vehicles can become that NASCAR racer. With the hills and hollers and no shoulders on most state and county roads of the area, such as Highway 142 or Highway 9, the slightest mishap could turn a vehicle into a slingshot, should you come to an abrupt halt on a hickory tree without the restraint of a seat belt.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), teenage drivers and passengers are among those least likely to wear their seat belts. While all teens are at a high-risk of experiencing a fatal crash, according to NHTSA, young males, pickup truck drivers and passengers, as well as people living in rural areas are also among those least likely to buckle up.
During 2006, a teen died in a traffic crash an average of once every hour on weekends and nearly once every two hours during the week.
In early October, Ford Motor Company announced they would soon release a programmable system called MyKey. After the announcement, there were some mixed feelings from those posting comments on Autoweek's Web site. Most comments were on the favorable side, although some had reservations that this idea was too restricting. One comment from a parent said, "I've trained my daughter to drive, work on the engine and change a tire. I know she is responsible to do the right things." Another such comment, "If I was saddled with such a key, I would NEVER buy a Ford when I was an adult! If you haven't trained your kid by the time he/she is 16, it is too late! Stupid Idea, Ford!"
The purpose of MyKey, is to allow some parental control, by setting limits on teen drivers speed, audio levels and seat belts.
According to Ford Motor Company's Web site, this programmable technology recently developed from auto security/anti-theft systems, slated for introduction on the 2010 Ford Focus model. MyKey will allow parents to add a limit to the top end speed of the auto, by programming the ignition key.
With vehicle crashes topping the National statistics as the number one cause of teen deaths, the automaker will now give concerned parents a new programmable safety option, as standard equipment.
Ford's Web site claims these safety features will:
* Limit the top speed to 80 mph.
* A speed alert chime at 45, 55 or 65 mph.
* Traction control system, that limits tire spin and cannot be deactivated.
* Limited audio volume to 44 percent of total volume.
Holding the key
The MyKey system allows the parent to program the car key through the vehicle message center, which updates the SecuriLock passive anti-theft system. With MyKey inserted into the ignition; the system reads the transponder chip in the key and immediately identifies the MyKey code, which enables certain default driving modes, including:
* Persistent Ford Beltminder with audio mute. Ford's Beltminder system typically provides a six-second reminder chime every minute for five minutes. With MyKey, the Beltminder chime continues at the regular interval and the audio system is muted until the safety belt is buckled. A message center display "Buckle Up to Unmute Radio" also appears on the instrument cluster.
* Earlier low-fuel warning. Rather than a warning at 50 miles to empty, MyKey provides a warning at 75 miles to empty.
* If MyKey is in the ignition, features such as Park Aid and BLISTM (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross Traffic Alert cannot be deactivated.
Using MyKey to teach teens to avoid speeding can provide an added benefit and improve fuel economy. Ford research shows that driving 55 mph instead of 65 mph consumes 15 percent less fuel and mastering other eco-driving habits such as avoiding jackrabbit starts and excessive idling can help improve fuel economy by more than 50 percent.
With this technology, there could be other applications developed. Parental control, government or police restrictions on drivers who have unpaid tickets or who are attempting to operate a motor vehicle without a proper license.
A long-term benefit is better safety and fuel consumption by teens and adults operators alike.
The belief that your teen is a safe and courteous driver is most likely true.
With no tickets to attend to, no need to purchase new tires, every couple of months or make frequent trips to the body repair shop, parents should feel proud and happy. One might breathe a little easier, knowing that because of simple reminders and safety precautions, there are some simple technology assisting you in watching over them.
Having a Teen Nanny/MyKey as a reminder to take the slightest precautions, which may prevent the loss of one life, are worth any inconvenience anyone might be subject to.