AUTO NEWS: Ford key's way to get tough on teen drivers
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The speedometer inched toward 80 mph and a message popped up on the dashboard display: "Vehicle near top speed." As the needle hit 80, the message changed: "Speed limited to 80 mph." And no matter how hard the driver pushed the ...
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The speedometer inched toward 80 mph and a message popped up on the dashboard display: "Vehicle near top speed."
As the needle hit 80, the message changed: "Speed limited to 80 mph."
And no matter how hard the driver pushed the pedal to the metal, the car wouldn't go faster.
Blame Ford's MyKey.
The new system allows parents to control speed, radio volume and seat-belt use among teen drivers. Ford will introduce it later this summer as a standard feature on the Focus.
And while highway safety advocates say the system isn't a cure-all for reckless driving, Ford hopes it helps reduce the number of accidents involving teenagers, said David Bass, a company spokesman, who brought a car outfitted with the technology to Columbia, S.C., for demonstrations.
"It allows teens to enjoy the pleasure of driving and enjoy it with their friends, listening to music and having that freedom," Bass said. "But it forces them to drive safely."
Nationwide, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers. And teens are involved in accidents at higher rates than other drivers.
In South Carolina, 7 percent of licensed drivers were between the ages of 15 and 19, yet drivers in that age group were involved in 12 percent of the state's accidents, according to the S.C. Department of Public Safety's most recent traffic collision fact book using data from 2006.
MyKey is one step toward reducing those numbers, said Tom Crosby of AAA Carolinas.
"It's better than nothing for a car company to try to address a problem a lot of people have been concerned about for a long time," he said.
Similar systems exist in the aftermarket, but Ford is the first automaker to install it as a standard feature, Crosby said. The most successful systems are ones that provide parents with a report after each trip, Crosby said.
"If a report says the driver went 80 mph for 20 minutes, then the parent can ask where they've been and why were they going that fast," Crosby said. "The key is to be able to get the feedback for the parent to let them know what the driving behavior was like."
MyKey comes with two keys. One is for the parents, and it can activate a control panel to the left of the steering wheel, letting them set the limits they want. The teenager gets a second key that only works in the ignition and door locks.
The Ford MyKey system will cap speed at 80 mph. Parents cannot set a lower cap such as 70 mph, which is the maximum speed on S.C. interstates.
Parents can set warning signals that chime when a driver hits 45, 55 or 65 mph. The system also has seat-belt reminders, and the radio will not work if the seat belts are not used, Bass said.
And teen drivers can't blast the radio at full volume.
"You can still listen to the music and enjoy it, but it's not going to cause any more distraction," Bass said.
Mark King, youth minister at Trinity United Methodist Church in Blythewood, S.C., said teens will try to beat the system.
"Kids are going to be creative to find ways around it if they don't like it," King said. "I wouldn't hold my breath that it's going to cure reckless driving."
And Cathy Jamieson-Ogg, who is the parent of a 16-year-old driver, said the MyKey system could limit teen driving accidents if it was widely used across the nation. But she isn't sure about getting it for her daughter, who has been a responsible driver.
"I would feel like I would be micromanaging and baby-sitting her in the car too much," she said.
Plus, the MyKey system cannot do a thing to stop a teen from talking and texting on a cell phone while driving.
"If they could come up with something to stop that," Jamieson-Ogg said, "I would vote for it."