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Insurance Company Using Technology to Reduce Teen Accidents

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


Insurance Company Using Technology to Reduce Teen Accidents

Mil Arcega
Washington DC
March 19, 2007

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A major U.S. insurance company is offering new technology to its customers, which could significantly reduce accidents. The program targets risky teenage drivers by giving parents the ability to view and track their children's driving habits. American Family Insurance Company says its “drive cam” technology could save lives and lower insurance costs. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says crashes are the number one killer of U.S. teens.

In fact, new data shows the fatality rate for teenage drivers is four times higher than for drivers 25 years or older. American Family Insurance believes one way to reduce the high rate is to eliminate risky driving behavior among teens.

To do that, they mount a small camera on a rear view mirror -- so parents, such as Dave Hackworthy, can monitor their child's driving habits. "It's held him accountable for driving. It's put him in a position where he knows he's being watched," says the dad.

Rusty Weiss, a director at Drivecam, which developed the technology for consumer use, says the camera only records abrupt maneuvers -- then emails it to parents. "It lets parents set a clear expectation, to drive in a manner that doesn't cause the camera to trigger. Pretty simple message."

Gary Fox, one of 30 teens who took part in a pilot project at Edgewood High School in Madison, Wisconsin, is convinced it works. "It will actually make me a better driver. When you do something wrong, make a sharp turn really fast, stop really fast - then it goes off."

Critics of the program have raised concerns about privacy. But American Family Insurance spokesman Steve Witmer says only parents will have access to the video. "It's sent directly to the parents. Edgewood High School doesn't see the information, American Family Insurance doesn't see the information, but people who need to see the information are the parents and the students."

American Family Insurance is now offering the program free for one year to 30,000 families in selected states. If the system proves effective in preventing accidents, the company says volunteers who use it could see their insurance rates drop.

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