'Big Brother' hitches a ride with teen drivers

| Wednesday, September 11, 2002

The trucking and airline industry have known about them for years. Now, a company is marketing a "black box" recorder for parents to install in their teenager's cars.

The on-board computer system is likened to a flight data recorder used in commercial aircraft. It monitors the driver's performance on a second-by-second basis.

If the young driver gets a lead foot, the box gives an audio warning to slow down. If they drive aggressively (hard cornering, hard braking, pedal-to-the-medal starts, etc.) it gives a warning to back off. If the driver thinks they're too cool to wear a safety belt, a continuous warning tone is activated.

If the ornery driver ignores the warning, the sound turns into a steady loud tone that won't go away until the driver stops the unsafe behavior. The results are graded against a performance standard and reported back to the parents on a handy memory card that plugs into a computer to display the reports and graphs. The boxes are being pedaled for about $280.

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