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The NPR radio show All Things Considered recently aired a story about DriveCam Video Systems, a company selling camera and sensor devices into vehicles to determine how accidents occur. While the advantage of this technology may be clearly visible in the world of commercial transportation, the NPR story focused more on teenage drivers and how parents may use this technology to gauge their children's driving habits.

With the DriveCam system installed, live video is captured from one of several cameras, most popularly a forward-facing shot (much like are installed in police cars) and also a camera facing the cabin. If the DriveCam computer system detects something anomalous, such as hard braking, fast turning or an impact registering in the optional force sensors, the video immediately preceding and following the incident are saved for review.

While it may be every parent's ultimate wish to know exactly how their children are driving absent their supervision, I doubt the installation of this technology will have the end-impact of reducing reckless and careless teen driving. Instead of teaching children the values of safe and defensive driving, the DriveCam system stands only to intimidate. Scaring children into possibly better driving practices for fear of punishment will do nothing for the longterm, while providing them with the knowledge and insight available on why they should decide to drive safely on their own will be everlasting. In the end, if a teen driver is going to drive recklessly and possibly get into an accident along the way, they will do so anyway. Just perhaps in their friend's vehicle.

As I mentioned before, there are very practical commercial uses for this technology as well. Not only can DriveCam explain why a work vehicle may return to its owner dinged or missing a mirror, but it can also help exonerate a driver of wrong-doing in the event of a mechanical malfunction.

Such cases and many more are available to watch by selecting from the following video samples provided by DriveCam on their website. Unfortunately only Microsoft Internet Explorer is supported and the installation of the DriveCam proprietary video software ActiveX control is required for viewing.

A Close Call
The driver fails to notice the red traffic signal in the upcoming intersection and is forced to take evasive action.

It is amazing this accident was not worse considering the apparent speed involved.

Asleep at the Wheel
The driver of this AAA-affiliated tow truck falls asleep at the wheel in the middle of the day, allowing his vehicle to leave the road for the sidewalk. This video is dual-camera, so be sure to click the "REAR" button and play the video again to see the alternate perspective.

What the hell do you think that was, moron? Fortunately for you, not a person on the sidewalk.

Pay Attention
The driver fails to notice traffic slowing ahead and nearly rear-ends another vehicle.

I agree with the passenger who rightfully enquires why the driver was being so absent-minded.

Bus Steering Malfunction
In an example of how the DriveCam system can exonerate a driver of guilt, this dual-camera video shows an airport shuttle bus losing its steering system, going over a railing and into a parking lot below. Again, be sure to click "REAR" and play the video again to watch the cabin view.

How scary for both the driver and passenger, who looks like he is going to vomit. I think the driver said it right, though!

This video captures the DriveCam-equipped vehicle as the victim of a t-bone crash.

What lovely driving music.
Too bad he had to have an accident to it.

Wrong Lane
Another example of the DriveCam vehicle as victim, this time to a pick-up truck deciding to make a last minute left turn from the middle lane.

At first I thought the driver at fault was going to make a run for it!

This commercial driver clips the passenger side mirror from his shuttle bus.

...and subsequently uses many "colourful metaphors."

What Did I Hit?
A good question for this driver who backs into or over something.

The driver's utterance of "tell me about it" seems to hint at an already bad day getting worse.

Speed Hump
This driver flies through a parking lot over a speed hump, hitting hard enough to trigger the incident saving feature of the DriveCam.

Are these people drunk? Even after plowing through the speed hump, they seem oblivious.


Related Article: DriveCam Redux

Two Comment Bubbles fifteen Comments

  • QFT

    Nice pic you've got there for the story.

  • J.Barnett

    Being a parent of a teen that had the DriveCam in his car for 9 months, I know more than what you "think". It was a very good tool to help him become aware of the many distractions of driving. It wasn't at all a way of "scaring" him into better driving practices. The camera has been out for many months and we still talk about what would have been an "event" when driving or riding in his car. He became a focused and defensive driver, and I believe the DriveCam was very instrumental.

  • David July

    I am glad to hear that the Drivecam worked for your family. While I continue to stand behind the opinions I stated in the article, since they are a generalization there are to be success stories expected. Preparing a teen for real-world driving experiences is an important step in a child's development and one I believe is all too often ignored. If this tool can help even a few parents instill better driving behaviour, then so be it. But my doubts remain on the whole.

    If you do not mind my asking, how much did having this system cost you?

  • D Brandt

    I am a parent of a teenager that had a Drive Cam in her vehicle for 8 months. Overall, it was a positive experience. We felt our daughter was a good driver and it proved to us that she was. One outcome of the Drive Cam experience is the how this made every driver in my family more aware of how we were driving. My son, age 14 at the time, was also paying attention to driving situations, ours or or other drivers, and would comment about if the situation would have triggered an incident. Not only was it a learning tool for our teenager and adult drivers in the family but it was also a learning tool for a future driver in the family.

  • J.Barnett

    We were part of a test group and the system didn't cost us anything.

  • M. Frahm

    I am another parent of a teenager that was part of this same test group. Again, it cost us nothing, but I feel was a valuable tool in helping our daughter understand some of the reasons why we do our best to ensure that she is a safe driver. I apologize in advance for the strong words here, but AS A FIREFIGHTER AND RESCUE SQUAD MEMBER, IT CONTINUES TO SICKEN ME (AND MY FELLOW FIREFIGHTERS) TO HAVE TO EXTCRICATE TEENAGE DRIVERS FROM THE COMPRESSED WRECKAGE OF THEIR VEHICLES, DUE TO AN ACCIDENT THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN ENTIRELY PREVENTABLE HAD THEY BEEN MORE AWARE/RESPONSIBLE . From the initial paragraph, the inference is that we participated in this project to spy on our drivers to see what they were up to - nothing could be further from the truth. When our daughter had an 'event' recorded, we simply watched it together and talked about what might have been done better or in a more dafe manner. She is mature enough to be allowed to make her own decisions about her actions, and provided she takes appropriate responsibility for them, we trust her. In terms of actions that can be life-threatening, we as her parents still do shoulder a great deal of responsibility. There was never any "punishment" meted out for camera events, just open caring discussion. I hope that same opportunity is available when our next teenage driver is ready to start behind the wheel.

  • Rusty Weiss

    I sponsored/managed the project in MN using DriveCam with teens. I was not a DriveCam employee at the time. I saw the power of DriveCam (power to improve driving behavior with little to no "Big Brother" side affects)in a fleet for which I was accountable. Since the device only saves 20 seconds just around a high-risk driving event, the drivers (teens or professionals) are mostly in control. As one teen said "I learned how to 'beat' the system - if I slowed down and paid attention to what other drivers were doing I could control when it triggered." I don't expect everyone to understand or to believe - I was not a believer in the beginning. But once you become part of the system you wonder how you stayed out of crashes before without its help.

    We continue in research and development and we are looking very closely at the dynamics of the parent/teen relationship to make sure we do everything in our power to help the parent be as good a driving coach as possible. Thanks for listening.

  • Rodolfo Cuaycong

    I have a 16 years old son who just learning to drive, and we want to join the group that uses Drive Cam. Please send information....Thanks!

  • David July

    I suggest contacting DriveCam Video Systems personally.

  • Gawie Liebenberg

    Hi there,

    I am from South Africa and would like to know what Drivecam users think about the product. Would you recommend this product???



  • Jim

    We have the drivecams installed in the vehicles where I work. While I know the intent is not to be used as a big brother disciplinarian tool, that is *exactly* how it's being used by my employer. They have written some of the most draconian and regressive driving policies I have ever encountered. Example: If you pass through a red light or a stop sign and it is caught on camera, you are fired. No excuses accepted. Icy pavement and you tried your best to stop? Too bad, you're fired.

  • Brian

    Helping teens drive? Like teens need the help more than any other sap out there unfamiliar with the latest adaptation to the regulations of the road.
    Please, cut the patronizing bullcrap, CNN. According to the morning wisdom box, teens have the coordination of a 70 year old when on the cell phone. If you have a problem with that, why is my grandpa driving, you hypocritical turds?
    All these cameras will do is make you drive slower and make you less confident in yourself. It's the same logic being used by "red-light cameras". If you see a yellow light and know there's a camera there, what are you gonna do? Speed up, not slow down! You wanna pass it before you get caught in front of the line by a freakin' inch and get ticketed like you know you always will. Murphy's Law.

  • pedro guerra

    Hy I am from Dominican Republic
    I will like to know what is the retail price for that systems

  • David July

    This spam comment appeared today and since I found it amusing, I am reposting it sans the spammy links.

    The National Transportation Safety Board recently divulged they had funded a project with US auto makers for the past five years. The NTSB covertly funded a project whereby the auto makers were installing black boxes in four wheel drive pickup trucks in an effort to determine, in fatal accidents, the circumstances in the last 15 seconds before the crash.

    They were surprised to find in 49 of the 50 states the last words of drivers in 61.2% of fatal crashes were, "Oh, Shit!"

    Only the state of Texas was different, where 89.3% of the final words were, "Hey Y'all, hold my beer and watch this!"

  • kelly Cusick

    There's an interesting book called "Driving Me Crazy" that really explains in depth how the DriveCam system works. To me, one of the interesting aspects was that all drivers of a car with a DriveCam camera installed become better drivers, because they learn what kinds of movements trigger the camera and unconsciously adjust their driving techniques to avoid those.

    I think the opportunity for continuing conversation and feedback between a teen driver and their parents that this technology provides, is a good thing; if the teen is driving perfectly then there are no recordings to view. If they are making mistakes significant enough to be recorded, then the parent has real knowledge about it, and can make appropriate decisions about how to help their kid be safer on the roads.

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