Ford taps programs, in-car technology to aid teen drivingTue, 11 Jun 2013 00:00:00 -0700
Teenage boys are more likely to neglect their seatbelts, while teenage girls will get distracted by passengers more often, according to a recent study from Ford.
Ford commissioned Penn Schoen Berland to survey 500 teens and 500 parents about teen driving habits and perceptions.
In addition to comparing boys and girls, the survey found that both parents and teen drivers believe winter is the most dangerous season for driving. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that in June, July and August 2011 there were 358 teen-driver fatalities in the U.S., compared to 271 in December, January and February of that year.
Ford presented the survey and showed off some of its teen safe-driving programs at their Dearborn, Mich., proving grounds.
The MyKey system is nothing new. It's been standard in Ford vehicles since 2010 and is expected to be equipped in more than 6 million Ford and Lincoln models on the road today, excluding Ford's commercial vans.
MyKey can mute the radio until the front two passengers are buckled up, limit radio volume and limit speed by cutting off the electronic throttle at a set speed. There's also a "do not disturb" mode that blocks incoming phone calls and text messages on a phone paired to Ford's Sync telematics system, plus a low-fuel warning at 75 miles until empty, in addition to the typical 50- and 25-mile alerts.
We tested MyKey with Ford safety planning and strategy manager Andy Sarkisian.
The system was activated easily through one of the car's two keys. That's the administrator's key, and it has a special chip in it that allows it to manage the system. When it is placed into the ignition or, in the case of a push-button-start vehicle, in a slot in the center console, the parent goes through prompts to select or disable the features for their teen. The other key is given to the teen driver and automatically enables all the controls when in use with the car without the capability of disabling them.
Next, we took to the track to test the speed limiter. It was set at 65 mph, and as we climbed to that speed MyKey warned us when we reached 50 mph and 60 mph -- and then at 65 mph, the throttle was cut off. We stomped on the pedal and got no response.
"There's no bucking or bad behavior, it's just ignoring your input," Sarkisian said.
We also tried to take off without our seatbelt on, and our music shut off, until the driver and passenger clicked in. And almost instantaneously, it was back on.
Driving Skills for Life
Ford is in its 10th year of the Driving Skills for Life program. It's a hands-on training program that helps new drivers practice dealing with distraction, speed and space management, vehicle handling and hazard recognition.
We tested Ford's distracted-driving course, tasked with texting and driving while maintaining a normal speed and dodging cones: Our text message was nonsensical, and we killed a cone.
But that's exactly what Ford instructors wanted.
"We're not teaching teens how to drive, but instead influencing decisions they make when driving," lead driving instructor Mike Speck said.
Driving Skills for Life is scheduled to visit 40 high schools in 2013. It's also an information source, with quizzes and information on tap at their website, drivingskillsforlife.com.
Visit the website to reserve a spot in a nearby program and go to the "Academy" tab for quizzes and more resources.
By Angie Fisher