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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Effectiveness Of In-Vehicle Monitoring Systems For Teen Drivers

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducted an interesting experiment in 2009 that tested the effectiveness of various in-vehicle monitoring systems on teen drivers. The study monitored the driving habits of 84 teen drivers with different types of in-vehicle technology to determine which ones had the greatest effect on both the teen drivers and their parents.

IIHS installed their own monitoring equipment in the study vehicles that recorded when drivers braked sharply or accelerated suddenly, didn’t use belts, and exceeded speed limits. The monitors used GPS and a satellite modem to transmit the data to a central processing facility and the data was made available for parents to review. In addition to its own monitoring systems, IIHS also installed different types of in-vehicle monitoring that are commercially available to parents of teen drivers. The 84 subjects were randomly assigned into four groups:

"Drivers in groups 1 and 2 heard audible alerts for risky maneuvers. A short, low-pitched buzz sounded for sudden braking and acceleration. A continuous low-pitched buzz sounded when the belt wasn’t buckled and stopped only when it was fastened. Speeding triggered a single beep at 2.5 mph over the posted limit, followed by continuous beeps at increasing pitch and frequency when the teenage drivers exceeded the limit by more than 10 mph.” For drivers in group 1, the information was immediately recorded and transmitted to the parents for review. The drivers in group 2 had the opportunity to correct their behavior and, if corrected within 20 seconds, prevent a report from being sent to their parents.

There were no in-vehicle alerts for drivers in group 3, just website notification. Group 4, the control group, was monitored but had no alerts or web notification.

The different types of monitoring systems included:

  • Basic systems: CarChip Pro, CarChipPro is essentially a black box that plugs into the car’s diagnostic recorder. The system can record speed, mileage, and other data. Once the information is downloaded, it provides parents with a history of the teen's driving. The system may also be set to turn into an alarm if certain speeds are reached or if the driver is braking too hard. The system is a tool to help discuss a teen's driving habits by allowing parents to show them the facts, and how to correct their driving behavior.

  • GPS-based systems: Inthinc’s Tiwi - This system monitors drivers in real-time by providing in-vehicle, verbal feedback to the driver when they are speeding, not wearing their seat belt or driving aggressively. Also, parents can be notified immediately of unsafe driving behavior (through text, voicemail or email) and all info is reported through an Internet-based portal for later review and discussion between parent and teen. This system gives teens a chance to correct their behavior before their parents are notified.

  • Video systems: DriveCam: Teen Safe Driver Program package –, This in-car camera system records "risky driving behavior" and sends them to DriveCam for third-party assessment of a teen driver's skills. The reports are then sent to parents, who can discuss the driving behavior with their teen.

  • Smart keys: MyKey, First seen on the 2010 Ford Focus, the MyKey system is designed to help parents set certain limitations on their Ford vehicles for when their teens are driving. With the configurable key, this system is designed for parents who share their cars with teen drivers. Ford has announced that this technology will be available in all Ford vehicles beginning in 2012. The key features are:

    • Do Not Disturb, prevents use of cell phone and texting while the car is in motion.

    • Speed Control, limiting the top speed of the Ford vehicle to 80 mph.

    • Volume control, which allows parents to set a maximum volume level for the car's radio.

    • Beltminder, an alarm system that mutes the radio and plays a chime every 6 seconds, every minute or every 5 minutes when the seatbelt is unbuckled.

    • Fuel reminder: alerts the teen that they need to refuel, when fuel is low.

The results of the study were as follows:

  • Seat belts – Seat belt use was already at a 94% level when the study began but increased among all four groups when the drivers were faced with a continuous buzzing or chiming noise. This has been found to be effective among all age groups.

  • Stops and starts – Sudden braking and rapid starts can indicate aggressive driving or inattention to the driving environment. Sudden stops and starts fell in all groups relative to the control group but was especially significant group 1 with immediate web notification to their parents. The effects were even greater among those whose parents received periodic report cards.

  • Speeding – Speeding was the most prevalent risky behavior noted among all groups. Speeding up to ten mph over the posted speed limit fell among the groups with alerts in their vehicles but then started to rise over time. Speeding was only significantly reduced among the groups whose parents were notified or those who had a chance to correct the problem before parental notification.

  • All risky behaviors – Risky behaviors declined most among the two groups with parental notification but were most noticeable among group 2, the ones who had a chance to correct their behavior before parental notification. Risky behavior was somewhat higher in group 1, apparently because it was too late to correct the behavior and their parents were going to be notified anyway.

Parents will want to consider the results of this study when choosing an in-vehicle monitoring device for their teen driver. More information on the study can be found at:

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