Can a camera inside the car record driver’s mistakes?

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Channel 4 posted a recent article about a camera that I hope is still around when my children start to drive.  I would love to know what they are doing and going over violations with them.  I can’t imagine how much you worry.  I would think most parents worry about texting, talking to friends that are in the car or changing radio stations.  All of these distractions could lead to a car accident very quickly.  AAA did an analysis of in-vehicle event recorders in 1,691 moderate-to-severe vehicle accidents between August of 2007 and July of 2013 involving drivers ages 16-19 determined that in 58 percent of the incidents, the young drivers were observed engaged in “some form of non-driving-related behavior” — including talking on a cellphone — in the six seconds leading up to the accident, states the 69-page report, titled “Using Naturalistic Driving Data to Assess the Prevalence of Environmental Factors and Driver Behaviors in Teen Driver Crashes.”

Most parents have never heard of the DriveCam program offered by Lytx, that allows parents to install a camera in their teen’s car and records their driving habits.  The video is then uploaded to an online portal, allowing a parent to see what a driver is really doing behind the wheel. The DriveCam fits in the palm of your hand and attaches, via suction cup, to the front windshield of any car, truck or semi-truck.  It has two cameras: one that records the driver and the passenger, the other records what’s happening on the road in front of the vehicle.

An example of an event is if the driver brakes hard, speeds or swerves.  If this happens, video of the event is uploaded to Lytx, where staff will review the video to see if the event was caused by a distracted driver or something else going on outside the car that the driver could not avoid. If it is determined the driver was “at fault” then that portion of video, eight seconds before and four seconds after, is downloaded to an online portal.Parents or anyone else with a private password can log in and view the event.  Parents can use it as a teaching moment to talk to their teen about staying safe.  Video captured by Lytx customers whose cars were equipped with the drivecam recorded many teenagers   distracted behind the wheel.  Some were texting, others were adjusting the radio, talking to a passenger or talking on the phone and can be seen running off the road or hitting other cars.

The analysis looked at the six seconds preceding the crashes and uncovered the following distractors, in order of prevalence.

  • Passenger interaction
  • Cell phone use (includes texting)
  • Eyeing something inside the vehicle
  • Eyeing something outside
  • Singing or moving to music
  • Grooming
  • Reaching for something

The DriveCam program is primarily used by trucking company executives to monitor their drivers, but parents are also signing up to get a better idea of what their teens are doing in the driver’s seat.

The camera is equipped with an accelerometer and other sensors that trigger when the driver stops short, swerves or speeds.  The company has access to national maps which provide speed limits on every road in the country.  Lytx recently participated in a study with AAA that revealed more teenagers than once thought are driving while distracted.

The DriveCam program costs $49.99 per month for a one-year contract, which includes the cost of the camera.  That sounds like a pretty good deal especially since AAA said that teens have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States, with approximately 963,000 drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 involved in crashes in 2013 — the most recent year in which data is available — that resulted in 2,865 deaths and about 383,000 injuries.

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