GM to launch Teen Driver system on '16 Chevy Malibu

Melissa Burden and David Shepardson
The Detroit News
GM called its system a first in the auto industry that can let parents view on the car's display how their teen drove the car.

General Motors Co. Friday said it will debut a new Teen Driver system on its redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Malibu that mutes the radio when front seat passengers haven't buckled up and give parents a report card of their teen's trip.

Teens also will get an audible and visual warning if a vehicle travels over pre-set speeds (between 40 and 75 miles per hour) by Mom and Dad. Radio volume can be set to a lower level that can't be exceeded.

GM called its system a first in the auto industry that can let parents view on the car's display how their teen drove the car. Teen Driver can tell parents the distance the car was driven, its maximum speed during a trip, the number of speed warnings, stability control events and antilock brake events. And if the car is equipped with the technology, Teen Driver will also tell if the car had any forward collision alerts and forward collision braking events.

"We developed this system so parents could use it as a teaching tool with their kids — they can discuss and reinforce safe driving habits," GM safety engineer MaryAnn Beebe, said in a statement. "As a mother of two, I know anything that has the potential of keeping one's family safer is of great value to parents."

Ford Motor Co. has had a similar feature — called Ford MyKey — since 2008. The feature mutes the radio when the driver or passengers aren't wearing a seatbelt; controls can limit radio volume and speed; and a "do not disturb" feature can let parents block incoming phone calls and hold text messages on a phone paired with Sync while teens are driving.

The program is equipped on more than 6 million vehicles, Ford said. Some insurance companies offer similar programs.

Insurance companies also have similar programs that use GPS or other devices in a car to monitor teens' driving habits. Good habits may be used for insurance discounts with some companies.

Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy at the consumer education and advocacy nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, said with a system like Teen Driver, it's key that parents disclose to their teens that the system is being used.

Stephens said parents should weigh the benefits of using a system like Teen Driver, but also find out how any data may be collected by the company. He said data collected from the vehicle could be turned over to police or with court cases.

"You have to realize that when you utilize a service like that, there could be unintended consequences," he said.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for those 5-18 years old in the United States. Young inexperienced drivers are far more likely than most drivers to make deadly mistakes. On a per mile basis, teen drivers are nearly three times as likely to be a in a fatal crash than those aged 20 or older.

Most states have imposed graduated driver license programs that mean it can take years to get an unrestricted license. Since 2011, beginning teen drivers in Michigan have faced limits on the number of passengers and shorter nighttime driving hours. In Michgan in 2013, 83 young people aged 16-20 were killed in car crashes — or about 9 percent of the 951 killed in the state in vehicle crashes.

Young people ages 15-24 represent only 14 percent of the U.S. population, but they account for 30 percent, or $19 billion, of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28 percent, or $7 billion of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among females, the CDC said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says more than half of teens killed in crashes were not wearing seat belts. NHTSA said speeding was a factor in 35 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers, 25 percent involve drinking by a teen driver and 12 percent of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time.

GM said Teen Driver will be standard on the Premier trim model and optional on LT models with GM's convenience package and up-level radio. The system does not require a subscription but parents must create a PIN number and register their teen's key fob using the car's MyLink infotainment system.

The carmaker will unveil the 2016 Malibu in early April at the New York International Auto Show. The 2016 midsize car is expected to go on sale late in the year.

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Staff writer Michael Martinez contributed