Teen-Proofing Cars: A Technology Essential or Major Overkill?
Did you know about new technology that is supposed to “teen-proof” cars for safety purposes? I thought it was an interesting idea for sure, but what did that mean? How exactly would someone “teen-proof” a vehicle?
For cars, at least, here are the features for “teen-proofing”:
- Speed control by limiting the car’s top speed
- GPS vehicle locator
- Ability to have the car read incoming text messages to the driver
- Stereo volume limiter
- Muted stereo until the seat belt is fastened
- Text messages to parents when the car exceeds speed limits, is out after curfew, or enters a pre-determined “geo fenced” zone
These features are being used by Ford (My Key Technology), GM (On Star), and Hyundai (Blue Link) as of now, but it sounds like other car companies are also looking into it.
Initially I thought this was a good idea; the safer the better, right? If I had kids, it would be nice to limit their speed (if they had somewhere to be, then they could just leave the house extra early, right? It would be great to control how they were driving and make sure they don’t do “stupid” things).
But after thinking these things through, I wondered more about teen-proofed cars and questioned them. Would these things really make them safer? Or would it make them more rebellious? Wouldn’t it really just enable them to drive stupidly in other vehicles because they wouldn’t learn to make conscious decisions on their own? I think kids need to drive the speed limit because it’s safe, and law abiding, not because the car won’t allow them to speed.
A speeding ticket or a fender bender teaches a teen much more than can be learned in a classroom or from a super-technical, “teen-proof” car. We need to let kids experience life and make lots of mistakes—that’s what truly keeps them safe. They learn, as we did, the right way to drive, and how to stay safe.
Will teens with "teen-proof" cars learn from their mistakes?
I have to wonder: why are parents allowing their teens to drive these brand-new, fancy cars in the first place? My first car was an old, ugly, reliable, clunker that I paid for myself. And I loved that car! I taught myself how to drive safely (I had to floor it for a mile or two before I was able to pass someone!) with the radio blaring, and I had a couple of close calls through the first years. That taught me so much, and today, I’m thankful for those experiences. It’s a sure bet that your teens won’t be showing off and joyriding if you give them a 1990 beater Chevy like mine to drive—but if you give them a 2012 Sonata with a sunroof, then of course they’ll take corners at 100 mph!
Not to mention, having the car control itself is less safe. I think auto makers need to make cars safer with seat belts, air bags, and good braking systems, but leave the control up to the driver. Electrical malfunctions are much less safe than driver error, because electronic malfunctions are out of our control—remember Toyota’s runaway cars?
I always trust human judgment over technology—especially that of my own kids (if I had any). We’re designed for critical, fast thinking. Cars are not!
The more technology that takes over, the dumber we become. I feel that we need to continue to think for ourselves and teach our children the right way to handle things, including a car. Those are skills we all need to learn the hard way sometimes. And, if we continue to allow controls like this—what’s next? Is the government going to put restrictions on all cars? Are adults also going to be forced to buckle up before being allowed to use the radio? When is enough, enough? Where does the control end? Teen-proofing cars are just the beginning.
What do you think of this technology? Is it making us and our kids safer? Or does it enable them to make worse choices, and to not take responsibility? What other technology might not be all it’s cracked up to be?