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Teen Road Safety

April 5, 2010 by  
Filed under lifestyle


Teens carHow far will parents go to keep an eye on, and ensure the safety of, their new, teen drivers?

Most teenagers crave the freedom and independence that comes with their first set of car keys, whether their own or a set that their parents toss them. Further down the road, however, there is a point at which driving is more than just an adrenaline rush. Parents surrendering those keys for the first time may start to wonder what their teenagers do when they’re out on the town: where do they go, do they wear a seatbelt, and how fast do they drive? Have they been drinking? Parents can now rest easy, because there are devices available to keep tabs on unsupervised teens.

If parents want to spy on their teens, they can try the Spark Nano Real-Time GPS Tracking Device. The palm-sized tracker, featured on CSI Miami no less, allows owners to access a range of information via the Internet. Much like a cellphone contract, users must buy the device ($199.95), and then sign up for a connection plan ($33.25 per month for 12 months; $49.95 per month for six months; $69.96 per month for three months).

It may seem a bit steep for the ability to spy, but Spark Nano’s secure online database allows clients to receive five-minute, real-time updates, as well as the ability to view the car’s speed, mileage, idle time, trip times, and what the system refers to as “Bread Crumbs.” This device catalogues past locations that show how the vehicle arrived at its current position. If the device travels beyond its designated boundaries, it alerts the parent via its “Geo Fence” option. Suffice to say, in combination with the online system, Spark Nano virtually places prying parents in the passenger seat of their teenager-driven car. If you feel that covert operations are a little overboard, Spark Nano can also be used on an upfront basis – parents can hand it to their kids and be straight with them. “We’ll be tracking you so if there’s an emergency, all you have to do is hit this panic button to send us an alert,” they can say. Either way, Spark Nano cannot guarantee parents that everyone in the car will buckle up.

In the March 2007 publication Seat Belt Sense, Transport Canada (TC) reported that seven per cent of Canadians don’t wear seat belts, and this percentage accounted for almost 40 per cent of Canada’s vehicular fatalities. Seat belts are estimated to save around 1,000 lives in Canada each year – a statistic that Lifebelt can only improve. An American company based in Las Vegas, Nevada, Lifebelt offers users the assurance of knowing that anyone in the car will be driven mad unless they wear their seatbelt. On Shark Tank, the American spin-off of the Canadian TV show Dragon’s Den, Lifebelt owner Robert Allison explained that his device will not allow the engine to start unless the driver’s seatbelt is buckled. If the driver or any passengers unbuckle while the car is in motion, the radio shuts off and an alarm sounds until all belts are re-buckled. And, of course, no teenager wants to drive without their music.

In 2006, alcohol played a part in 93.4 per cent of the Canadian road fatalities of 16 to 19-year-olds. According to a 2002 Statistics Canada report on impaired driving, drivers between the ages of 19 and 24 were responsible for the highest rate of drunk-driving accusations.

In its online introduction to the Ignition Interlock Program (IIP), Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation (MTO) notes that “there are about 13,000 drinking and driving convictions recorded annually in Ontario.” If convicted, Ontario offenders must enter IIP and have a breath alcohol ignition interlock installed in their car to ensure it won’t start unless they blow under the 0.2 limit (0.8 is the legal limit).

As part of the Responsible Driver Program (RDP), an offender could face costs of up to $1,500, based on a year’s use of the monitoring system provided by the MTO’s contracted and sole interlock provider, Guardian Interlock Systems, which charges $105 per month. If installed out of choice, however, users do not have to pay for or participate in the RDP, and will face only the initial purchase and installation costs (roughly $150 – $300).

Installing a breathalyzer as a pre-emptive tactic for drunk-driving-teens seems extreme, but if a user is willing to use the Spark Nano or Lifebelt systems, they may feel it is better to be safe than sorry and call Guardian Interlock Systems for an estimate.Taking a few seconds to blow into a machine and decrease the chances of death seems reasonable when you consider that according to Transport Canada, 3,122 people died in alcohol-related crashes in Canada in 2006. Similarly, preventing successful engine ignition unless everyone is buckled up seems like an obvious solution to help increase crash survival.

Not all teens make the bad decision to drive drunk or ride unbuckled, however, and concerned parents may simply ask themselves: Do I trust my child?


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