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by Tim Beissmann

Do you remember the first time you got to drive your parents’ car after you got your licence? Remember the incredible sense of freedom you experienced knowing that there was no one constantly looking over your shoulder? Maybe there were even one or two close calls that no one had to know about?

Since 2007, an insurance company in the US has been working in collaboration with a Californian technology company to put the parents right back in the passenger seat when things go wrong. The system is designed to improve the safety of young drivers, and according to recent reports, its popularity and effectiveness is growing.

American Family Insurance (AFI) offers free ‘DriveCam’ technology to parents to give them an insight into exactly what happened in their car before it was involved in an incident.

DriveCam is small, two-way camera that is attached to a vehicle’s rear view mirror. It captures footage of the road ahead, as well as sound and images of the driver.

The system does not capture the driver’s every move, however. It is designed to record and save only the 10 seconds before and after an incident, erratic movement or strong braking action. The data is sent to the insurance company who then sends the video to the parents and the young driver.

The concept is designed to encourage young people to drive more safely, with the assurance that their parents will only be able to spy on them if they become involved in a potentially dangerous situation.

AFI calls it the ‘Teen Safe Driving Program’, and it claims the program has reduced risky driving behaviour by 70 percent.

The ‘Big Brother’ system has not been enormously popular among young drivers, with the predominant emotion being one of an invasion of privacy. To a degree, the effectiveness of the system has depended on the relationship between young drivers and their parents.

Some other insurers and technology companies in the US offer GPS tracking and black box-esque devices, which allow parents to track their young driver’s movements, speeds and braking patterns when behind the wheel of the family car.

What do you think of DriveCam? Is it a valid safety device or an invasion of privacy? And would it work in Australia?




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