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01 Oct

Teen Drivers Come Into Focus

Right around the corner is National Teen Driver Safety Week. Held October 14-20, it focuses on tomorrow’s drivers — a group that represents some of the highest-risk motorists on the road.

Car crashes, according to Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC) based in Ann Arbor, Mich., are the No. 1 cause of teenage deaths every year. In-car distractions can only increase that number even more.

Take into account modern hazards like smartphones and texting and it’s no wonder that companies like Toyota, Ford and Bridgestone are all stepping up with initiatives to make sure younger drivers stay safe. Aftermarket companies are also upping their efforts to combat driver distraction with products that can keep motorists focused.

Toyota has now teamed up with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) to conduct a study of 5,600 teens and adults. Results will be released as soon as data has been processed. The study is looking at teen attitudes toward risks like texting and driving in an effort to identify effective recommendations to keep teen drivers safe. Also under the microscope are risk factors that get less attention, but sometimes pose even greater threats to young drivers. 

The survey includes newly licensed drivers between ages 16 to 18 and parents of drivers in the same age group. It also will feature a sample of teens and parents from the same household, making it one of the first studies to examine teen and parent driving behaviors in the same family, as well as examine the role that parents, peer behavior and cognitive development play in driving behaviors.

Beyond national findings, the study will include results from several metropolitan areas across the country, including Chicago, Houston, Long Island, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

For it’s part, Ford teamed up with Variety, the entertainment industry trade publication, to encourage safe driving at the annual Power of Youth event in Los Angeles this month, which honors the charity work of young actors such as The Jonas Brothers, Sarah Hyland, Diego Boneta, Jordin Sparks, and others. The Ford Driving Skills for Life (DSFL), a comprehensive driving skills program now in its ninth year, was on the set of Paramount Pictures Studios at the event to take hundreds of teens through a driver distraction course and provide safe driving tips from professional drivers.

Ford also held demonstrations of its MyKey technology, which the company calls an industry first, designed to help new drivers develop safe driving habits. Parents can program the “Do Not Disturb” function that blocks incoming calls and texts while the “No Belt, No Tunes” feature silences the stereo system until front occupants buckle up.

The company’s presence at the event was representative of Ford’s commitment to elevating the importance of driving safety among the newest and youngest drivers on the road.

One of the newest teen driver safety programs kicked off earlier this month by Bridgestone Americas. The Bridgestone Teens Drive Smart Driving Experience is a free, half-day program designed to equip teens and young adults — ages 15 to 21 —with the skills to handle the challenges of today's roadways. Sessions combine classroom instruction with hands-on driving exercises to teach defensive driving skills and reinforce smart decision-making on the road. The event just wrapped up in San Francisco and is now headed to Houston on October 6-7; Phoenix on October 20-21; and Nashville, Tenn. on November 3-4.

For their part, aftermarket companies are also developing products. Scosche has its cellControl, introduced earlier this year at CES, which disables the use of unsafe cell phone applications while driving. Bluetooth signaling blocks drivers from being able to text message, email, or make phone calls. The system, with an MSRP of $130, activates automatically when the vehicle is in motion to create a safe driving environment for everyone on the road.

Parking assist systems are another area of growth for the mobile electronics industry. Alpine’s new back-up sensor systems include the entry-level HCE-C104 rear view camera (MSRP $99.95) to the HCE-C305R ($499.95) ActiveView rear camera system, which detects moving objects behind the vehicle by giving both audible and visual warnings.

The company’s VPX-B104R VPASS (Visual Parking Assist Sensor System) with MSRP of $249.95 mounts to a rear bumper and has four ultrasonic reverse sensors. When used with an Alpine camera system (like the one mentioned above), the VPASS system helps drivers back into a parking space. The system gives both audible and visual warnings for total peace of mind for the driver.

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