How carmakers are cutting teen driver distractions

Published: May. 30, 2019 at 1:17 PM EDT
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Over the past five years, nearly 3,500 people have died in crashes involving teen drivers between Memorial Day and Labor Day. AAA calls them the 100 Deadliest Days. But now some automakers are introducing new technology to cut down on teen driver distractions and improve safety.

Dash cam video shows some of the mistakes teen drivers make, from texting and driving to dozing off.

They are mistakes that worry Tricia Morrow, the mother of a teen driver and a safety engineer for GM.

"I am passionate about safety," Morrow said.

She helped design Chevy's teen driver technology and its newest feature called "Buckle to Drive." It becomes active when a teen driver enters the car with a preprogrammed key fob.

"And when the driver pushes on the brake to shift, the shifter will be locked," Morrow said. "And it won't let you shift out of gear for 20 seconds or until you buckle your seat belt."

According to the CDC, teens have among the lowest rates of seat belt use. And car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. In 2016, 2,400 teens 16-19 were killed.

Other carmakers have technology that can be used for teens.

Ford's MyKey system allows parents to limit vehicle speed and the audio system volume.

Hyundai and Volkswagen both have curfew alert systems that can send a text or email if the car is being driven after a specific time.

"This will become de facto in cars in the future," said Brian Cooley of CNET.

Cooley says the technology is a no-brainer for carmakers.

"It's easy for them to offer this at minimal cost and they get a lot of kudos from buyers in the new market and a lot of families that will say I want that car versus the one that I perceive as being less safe," Cooley said.

In testing, Chevy says its buckle to drive technology increased seat belt use 16 percent, designed to give parents some peace of mind.