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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New Feature Set to Stop Speeding Young Drivers

Ford's Microchip Will Let Parents Set Limits For Teens

Using a computer chip in the ignition key, Ford Motor Co. will roll out a new feature on many 2010 models that can limit teen drivers to 80 mph.

Parents will also be able to program the teen's key to limit the audio system's volume, and to sound continuous alerts if the driver is not wearing a seat belt.

Jim Buczkowski, Ford's director of electronic and electrical systems engineering, said, "Our message to parents is, hey, we are providing you some conditions to give your new drivers that may allow you to feel a little more comfortable in giving them the car more often."

When the 2010 cars and trucks come out late next summer, the feature, called "MyKey," will be standard on a number of Ford models. Spokesman Wes Sherwood said the feature would spread to the entire Ford, Lincoln and Mercury lineup as models are updated.

Buczkowski said that Ford arrived at the 80 mph limit even though freeway speed limits are lower in most states because it wanted to leave a margin in case an unusual situation arises.

Freeway speed limits are above 70 mph in some states, Sherwood said.

"Just lopping it off at exactly 70 mph was felt to be too limiting," Buczkowski said.

Ford already employs computer chips in its keys to prevent thefts. The car won't start unless the chip in the key matches.

"It's making use of existing technology, and through the magic of software, we're able to build features on top of the features we already have," Buczkowski said.

MyKey will also limit the audio system volume, and if seat belts are not fastened it will sound a six-second chime every minute. Buczkowski said the chime sounds for adult drivers, too, but ends after five minutes to avoid annoying adults who adamantly don't want to wear seat belts.

If the teen exceeds 45, 55 or 65 mph, parents also have the option of having the car sound a chime.

The company said the feature would debut on the 2010 Focus compact car and quickly become a standard feature on other Ford models.

Ford said its market research shows 75 percent of parents like the speed and audio limits, but as you might expect, 67 percent of teens don't like them.

Danisha Williams, a 16-year-old senior at Southfield-Lathrup High School in suburban Detroit, said she's against the idea.

"I wouldn't want my parents to have that much control over how I'm driving," she said. "If your parents are holding your hand, you're never going to learn."

Brittany Hawthorne, 17, another Southfield-Lathrup senior, said there may be emergency situations where she'd have to drive more than 80, possibly to accelerate to avoid a crash.

Sherwood said that Ford's research shows that parents would be more likely to let teens use their vehicles with the system. If it allows the teen to drive the car more often, the number of teens objecting drops by nearly 50 percent.

A spokeswoman from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a research group funded by the auto insurance industry that is lobbying to raise the minimum driving age to 17 or 18, found the key intriguing and wasn't aware of any other manufacturer offering it. Car crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers, according to IIHS.

Anne McCartt, the institute's senior vice president for research, said, "Research we've done has shown that speeding is a major factor in teen crashes, especially novice teen drivers. So I think a system that tries to correct the speeding behavior has the potential to improve safety."

Each year, over 5,000 U.S. teens die in car crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the crash rate, fatal and nonfatal, per mile driven for 16-year-old drivers is almost 10 times the rate for drivers ages 30 to 59. To help reduce the number of crashes, several U.S. auto insurers have begun offering in-car cameras or global positioning equipment to help parents monitor their teens' driving behavior.

Along with motor vehicle safety, driver education helps ensure the safety of Americans. Whether you're getting your Commercial Drivers License, your Learner's Permit, or your Motorcycle License, America's Driver's License Headquarters is

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