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ROAD SAGE

How features can now help parents spy on their teen drivers Add to ...

While the fact that young people are driving less is troubling for car makers, it’s likely a bit of a relief for parents. Handing over the keys to your kids can be a stressful experience.

We all know that cars and teens can be a lethal combination. Automobile collisions are the leading cause of death among 16- to 25-year-olds. It doesn’t help that many parents of teens grew up in an era when drinking and driving was considered a sport. Thinking back to our youthful automotive experiences is sure to turn a few more hairs grey.

Chevy has an answer. A year ago, it introduced its Teen Driver technology in the 2016 Malibu. It will reportedly be available in 2017 models of the Chevrolet Bolt EV, Camaro, Colorado, Cruze, Malibu, Silverado, Silverado HD, Suburban, Tahoe and Volt.

Teen Driver is a non-subscription service that parents install by registering their teen’s key fob in their car’s settings. It then acts as a parental stand-in. Teen Driver mutes a car’s audio system until the driver has fastened his or her seat belt. Parents can preset speed limits. If the driver exceeds these, Teen Driver sends a warning. Teen Driver also offers a number of other features including lane-departure warning, forward collision alert and automatic emergency braking.

It’s most helicopter-parent friendly feature, according to The Detroit Free Press, “is the option that provides parents with a report card, accessible on the front instrument panel’s touchscreen, that shows how the teen drove, specifically the number of traction-control activations, wide-open throttle events and tailgating alerts.”

Wow. It’s tough to fault this technology. If it saves one life, then it’s worth it.

And yet … should we be so quick to trade privacy for security? Shouldn’t a 19-year-old be given the right to drive without mom getting a report card at the end of the day?

Millennials already think driving is a pain. Do we want to remove the last thing that might attract them to it – the thing that attracted us way back when – the freedom and independence of driving? If you don’t think your kid is responsible enough to drive, don’t loan him your car. At what point do we say to our kids – you’re an adult, act like one?

And do we really think kids won’t figure out ways to hack it? Parents thought the cell phone would be the ultimate solution. Give your kid a mobile and you’ll always be able to reach them. Right? Didn’t really work out that way. If your teen needs something – boom – you get the call. But if you need to reach them it’s a different story.

“My battery died. I have no service. My iPhone got wet. My phone wasn’t working for the three hours you were trying to reach me but it’s working now that I need you to pick me up.”

Also, if we’re going to accept Teen Driver, I think Chevy should consider other manifestations of the technology. Teens aren’t the only ones who could use a little help from the Cloud.

How about “Taxi Driver”? It would stop cabbies from trying to run over cyclists, even if those cyclists do pound on the passenger window.

“Dad Driver” would turn up the car’s audio when dad goes on an expletive-laced tirade about whatever automobile just cut him off or “things he’s sacrificed for this family.” A Yacht Rock playlist would play until he exhausts himself.

“Mom Driver” would pump two or three bursts of gaseous Valium into the automobile once mom fastens her seat belt. A George Clooney sound-alike would then tell her there’s no point in trying to stop at the grocery store before getting the kids.

The Roman satirist Juvenal once wrote, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” Who will guard the guards themselves?

Turns out, it might be Chevy.

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