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Vehicle Monitoring Devices for Teen Drivers Eyed After Safety Study

By David Goguen | Last updated on

Equipping teenagers' cars with "black box" monitoring devices can help reduce the risks that unsupervised young drivers take when they get behind the wheel, according to a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

What Do the Devices Monitor? Although they may sound like every teenager's nightmare, vehicle "black box" monitoring devices can use GPS to pinpoint a car's location, and record and transmit driving data -- including speed, sharp braking, quick acceleration, and use of seat belts by drivers and passengers. Some devices can even let parents dial into the car directly if they don't like what they're (virtually) seeing.

What Did the Study Show? For the IIHS study, vehicles driven by 84 teens were equipped with a "black box" for monitoring. The drivers heard "audible alerts" in their vehicles when the monitoring devices recorded risky driving. The monitoring program proved most effective in combating speeding: "Instances of speeding more than 10 mph over the posted limit were reduced significantly only when alarms sounded in the vehicles and speed-related report cards were emailed to parents," according to the IIHS.

Once the study was over, 98 percent of parents involved said they would recommend the monitoring devices to other parents of teen drivers. Probably least shocking of all was the revelation that more than half of the teen drivers "described the beeps and buzzes as annoying, and the majority were happy when the unit was removed," as the IIHS reports.

Teen Drivers and Fatal Accidents. Data from the IIHS clearly shows that teenage drivers are involved in more fatal car accidents than older drivers: among crashes involving drivers aged 16 to 19, the fatality rate is four times that for accidents in which non-teenage drivers are involved. In 2007 alone, 4,342 people were killed in car accidents involving teenage drivers.

What Else are States Doing? To further safeguard teen driving, a number of states have enacted driving laws that employ "graduated" driver licensing, in essence "phasing in" new drivers by limiting their driving privileges early on, and then gradually expanding those privileges as the drivers' experience grows. According to the IIHS, states that have introduced these "graduated" licensing systems have reduced car accidents 10 to 30 percent. Learn more about Licensing Systems for Young Drivers, from 

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