Forget about “Big Brother”

By PAM OAKES ASE/EETAS, Special for  USDR

If they had the technology 40 years ago that they have on today’s vehicles — I was a full-throttle or stop kinda girl — I probably would still be grounded “for  life.”

But, my dad — a full throttle or stop kinda guy — knew the tricks and put the hammer down one evening. Caught for the third time drag racing, driving privileges severely  restricted.


Parents take note: Being without wheels was a great motivator to improve driving habits.
Today’s student drivers — not unlike yesterday’s kids — are very impressionable and push the envelope by attempting to copy what they see on video race games or car company ads. Those of us who’s synapsis have attached, pruned know better. This is where parents need to step in — and be parents — and discuss these video scenarios. It needs to be explained to these youngsters that those cinematic stunts aren’t real and should not be emulated. Another tidbit to pass to your teen: A quarter-mile is to be measured on a professional track, under professional controlled conditions. (So, can anyone explain to me why my dad and I have a stopwatch incorporated into our vehicles’ dash controls? Specifically designed for drag racing?) Decades ago, parents were paying attention to the physical evidence of poor driving habits like worn rear tire tread, “broken” engine mounts or brake pad plates grinding into the rotors. But along with other things, we have evolved to monitoring junior’s speed, braking and whereabouts without leaving the comfort of our living  rooms.


And, just when you thought that the app linking the driver’s phone to the vehicle – like Ford’s MyKey – was the fix, General Motors (GM) has come out with the next generation driver’s ed teacher: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu. Now, you can review your child’s driving and see where, what and how fast that kid’s been driving down the roadway, among other parameters. Upon the adult’s request, the child’s drive-time, flight stream can be viewed once a day or once a week. You child driving like an idiot? GM’s “Teen Driver” mode is there to tattle. Your student driver goes past the posted speed limit? The “Teen Driver” module logs the infraction. The kid got a little too close to an object? The GM “Teen Driver” will let you know. According to the Institute of Insurance for Highway Safety (IIHS), 16 to 19 year olds are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than those 20-plus. GM looks at this monitor as a safety feature that will save lives – no matter what the  age.

The Center of Disease Control (CDC) wants to take that monitoring one step further with the introduction of “Parents are the Key” program. (http://www.cdc.gov/parentsarethekey/pdf/patk_2014_teenparent_agreement_aap-a.pdf) A contract signed between the child and parent signal both parties are onboard went it comes to teen driver safety – increasing your student driver’s odds of not becoming one of the eight-teens-a-day auto fatality
statistic. The biggest threat to your child’s safety behind the wheel? The CDC recognizes eight dangers traveling with your teen this summer: driving with another teen (top CDC issue), DUI (while still underage), reckless driving moves (racing, disregard of traffic rules), drowsy driving (lack of sleep), distracted driving (talking-texting while driving), no seatbelt, nighttime driving (limited visibility). And, these are greatly compounded by the student driver’s  inexperience.

Just like 40 years ago, cars don’t lie – even in a crumpled heap, those automotive “black boxes” tells the story about bad braking down to (yes, dad) drag racing. But, now that data is permanently logged. Some groups are crying “Big Brother” while others applaud the second set of eyes on their kids. Another group frets about the data being used for law enforcement or accident reports. This isn’t anything new. More than 20 years ago, onboard vehicle computers – starting with the first generation, programmable command module, anti-lock brake module, body control modules — were giving accident investigators information regarding braking, who wasn’t wearing their seat belt, and, in some cases, how fast the vehicle was traveling (when the vehicle would exceed the mechanical limits of the car or truck — there are codes for that, too). Today’s technology just makes it quicker to find the clues to piece together the  accident.

The CDC says no matter what statistic you look at, all fingers point to the parents for intervention, involvement in their student driver’s education. Signing a driver agreement, monitoring your teen’s driving habits and talking about the rules of the road are key to the beginning of a great student driver/vehicle life-long relationship. And, even though they are taller than you are, they still are children looking up to you for guidance, rules to follow. They are listening — while rolling their eyes – and do remember your words. Talk about the rules and respect to the road – on a daily basis. It’s that simple to keep your student driver safe and not a  statistic.
Pam Oakes is a retired 20-year owner of nationally awarded shop (Pam’s Motor City Automotive and Tires), fourth-generation ASE-certified technician, automotive author, automotive speaker, automotive patent holder and syndicated radio host of “Car Care for the Clueless” Daily Edition on dozens of stations Coast-to-Coast. And, yes, she still “turns wrenches”for fun,  nowadays.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.