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Hightailing to when jennifer bartz first heard of the Teen

Safe Driver program offered through American


Family Insurance, she was enthusiastic. As the

Positive Results parent of a teenager, she knew that once her son
DJ received his driver’s license, he would be off to
enjoy that initial freedom of the open road. She
American Family also knew that this newfound freedom may lead
to some not-so-good choices. “Once [DJ] got his
Insurance’s Teen license and we met with our agent, we were eager
to have the [Teen Safe Driver] system installed to

Safe Driver Program monitor his unsafe driving habits and assist him
in better understanding how those habits could
be disastrous,” Bartz said. Don’t be alarmed. The
by ta m nguyen
system that Bartz had installed in their vehicle was
not a spy device to track DJ’s whereabouts. On the
contrary, it is a learning tool that helps teenage
drivers to reduce their risky driving behaviors.
(Photo courtesy American Family Insurance)

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The program identifies areas of concern for parents and
young drivers to discuss.

business
The Teen Safe Driver pro- high school participants from about 30 percent to close to 100
gram produced in conjunc- percent by the end of the program.
tion with DriveCam, Inc., Bartz also observed how the program has positively affect-
a driver risk management ed her son. She added, “[We] have noticed that in the areas
company in San Diego, al- where the camera was ‘capturing’ [DJ’s] poorest habits, in
lows parents to be involved particular high speed acceleration getting on Interstate 43, he
in overcoming the challeng- has had zero ‘incidents’ in over three months.” According to
es their young drivers face as Bartz, DJ’s goal is to not trigger the camera.
they learn to drive. The pro- Although the program has moved from pilot phase to full
gram uses an audio recorder rollout, it faced initial challenges. Some American Family
and video camera installed Insurance clients were worried that their auto insurance rates
behind the rearview mir- would rise because of the activities of teenage drivers behind
ror to monitor driving be- the wheel. According to Steve Witmer, media relations ad-
havior. Though the device ministrator for American Family Insurance, that’s not the
constantly records sights case. “The information goes to DriveCam, the technology
and sounds both inside and provider, who does all the analysis and coaching and it’s all
outside the vehicle, the unit between the parents and DriveCam. We don’t see the data.
only captures and saves We see an aggregate of the data,” he said.
data when the vehicle is
suddenly jarred. Behaviors
such as hard braking, col- “We’ve recorded about a 70-
lisions, sudden acceleration,
and swerving or sharp cor- percent drop in risky behaviors
nering trigger sensors on from the first weeks of the pro-
the device. Once triggered,
a red light flashes and the
gram to about six weeks later.”
device begins to capture —Rusty Weiss, director of DriveCam’s consumer division
data up to 10 seconds prior
to an event and 10 seconds after its occurrence. The images
and sounds are sent wirelessly to DriveCam’s analyst team Having an in-vehicle camera naturally aroused bewilder-
where a driving coach reviews and scores each event in re- ment in some teens giving them the impression that parents
lation to other teen drivers. Parents can log on to a secure were spying. However, teens soon learned after a few weeks
Web site where they can view a weekly driving report card, using the program that they control whether or not the de-
coaching tips, the recorded video and audio data, and an as- vice is triggered. Their willingness to pay attention to what
sessment of the driver’s performance in relation to their peers. is happening in their driving environment demonstrates to
“Every ‘incident’ brings a discussion, which I believe causes their parents that they are more capable drivers. “It’s not a
improved driving…this program allows [DJ] to see what he’s babysitter. It doesn’t monitor what is going on all the time in
doing and then correct it for future driving,” Bartz said. the car,” Witmer added. But what the device has detected has
Since its pilot program launched in 2006 at Edgewood resulted in improved auto safety for teenage drivers because
High School in Madison, Wisconsin, and Prior Lake High of parental involvement.
School in Prior Lake, Minnesota, the Teen Safe Driver pro- Since beginning the program in August, Bartz is grateful
gram has shown positive results. Research shows that the most to have this learning tool for her son. She said, “I wish this
dangerous habit of teen drivers is driving while distracted, program was available to all parents of new drivers. I think
which can result in aggressive driving, abrupt braking, and if we all took an active role in monitoring those risky driving
collisions. Rusty Weiss, director of DriveCam’s consumer di- habits, much money and lives could be saved.”
vision, said, “We’ve recorded about a 70-percent drop in risky The Teen Safe Driver program is offered to American
behaviors from the first weeks of the program to about six Family Insurance auto insurance clients free of charge for one
weeks later.” For instance, seatbelt usage increased in these year in all 18 states where it operates. For more information,
visit teensafedriver.com. ¶

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