One of the features offered on the forthcoming 2016 Chevy Malibu is called “Teen Driver.”
The system is being positioned as something that “provides parents with a tool to help encourage safe driving habits for their kids, even when they are not in the car with them.”
Or put more plainly: It keeps an eye on the kid behind the wheel.
Essentially, the parent, after pairing the teen’s key fob with the system via the Chevy MyLink system (in cars so equipped), can set the top speed of the car (from 40 to 75 mph). If exceeded, a visual and audible warning kicks in.
But what is more to the point of this system is that it generates a report that includes metrics like distance driven, maximum speed traveled, over-speed warnings issued, stability control events, and antilock brake events.
In other words, should said teen not drive in a “responsible” manner, even though the parental unit may not be with the teen, a virtual monitor is in place, taking note of the driving behavior.
While one might think this is a bit on the Big Brother side, the essential nature of things like this can be extrapolated from a study on teen drivers recently conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The study was conducted by capturing some 1,700 videos of teen drivers in action behind the wheel.
Turns out that they’re generally doing more than paying attention to the task at hand (a.k.a., driving).
And as a result, they are distracted. Distraction, the study finds, was a factor in 58% of the crashes studied that involved teens. Of that number, 89% of the road-departure crashes and 76% of the rear-end crashes had being otherwise occupied as a causal factor.
Apparently, this is a finding that is rather different than the one from NHTSA, which reckoned that distraction was a factor in only 14% of all teen crashes.
That’s a fairly substantial delta.
While cell phone use is a nontrivial contributor to the number of crashes (12%), there are other, non-tech-related causes, as well. That is, “interacting with one or more passengers” accounted for 15%, looking at something in the vehicle 10%, and looking at something outside the vehicle 9%.
Singing and bustin’ a move behind the wheel accounted for 8%.
This last one brings us back to the Chevy Teen Driver. Another of the features mutes the audio (including anything brought in and linked to the audio system) if the driver or front seat passenger isn’t buckled in.
So at least there is a measure of safety vis-à-vis that 8%.