Janesville20.5°

CarChip lets parents keep tabs on teen drivers

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Mike DuPre'
December 29, 2007
— Sandy Baner was surprised.

Her son, Christian Livick, had reached a speed of 60 mph somewhere in or near Janesville, but he had not driven on the Interstate.


“He wasn’t on the Interstate, so there will be some issues. We will be talking about it,” said Baner, a Janesville attorney.


She had signed up herself and her 16-year-old son for the CarChip Teen Safe Driving Program, which is offered to students at both Craig and Parker high schools through the school district, AAA of Wisconsin and the Janesville Police Department.


Program participants put an electronic CarChip recording device in the on-board diagnostic port in their later-model vehicles, then download the recorded information—such as speed and instances of hard braking and acceleration—into their computers.


The electronic record lets young drivers and their parents know how fast the teens have been driving and if they drove aggressively.


Baner and Livick and Todd Bailey and his son, Jacob, are among the 40 households in the program so far, said Capt. Dan Davis of the Janesville Police Department.


Davis stressed in meetings with parents the chips are not enforcement tools to enable police to write traffic tickets. Rather, they are intended to record driving activity and let both parents and kids know if and when the teens’ driving is dangerous, he said.


Baner was curious about how her son drove and considered the chip a possible deterrent to bad driving in light of the recent rash of serious accidents.


“I thought Christian was a safe driver, perhaps a little too cautious,” she said.


Livick initially was concerned the CarChip was a tracking device, but when he learned it wasn’t and how it works, he understood why his mom wanted to get him in the program.


The Craig junior said he usually drives his 1998 Subaru Impreza with the flow of traffic.


Davis recommended that parents establish consequences for young drivers who exceed speed limits parents program into the chips.


Baner hadn’t done that, but after seeing that her son had sped in or near town, she said:


“Oh, absolutely. We’ll have to set some now that I know he’s not staying within the limits.”


Earlier, Baner said that having the chip gave her some peace of mind.


“I had no reason to doubt his driving skills or to think he was driving crazy,” she said before seeing that Livick had been speeding. “But as he gets older, he might be tempted to drive like any other teenager.”


Jacob Bailey, a 16-year-old junior at Parker, is not a speeder, said his father, Todd, a Janesville police officer and school board member.


“He’s very safe,” the elder Bailey said.


Bailey decided to enroll his son in the program because, he said, “I thought it was a great way to see what’s going on in the car. … It was more to reassure myself that he was continuing to drive the way I thought he was driving.”


Because he knows that most speed limits in Janesville are 30 mph or lower, Bailey set the CarChip to sound its alarm at that speed. His son drives 50 to 60 miles a week, but most of the trips are to and from school.


One stretch of his route is on a 55-mph road, and his father allows him a 5-mph cushion over the limit to pass and stay with the flow of traffic.


His father thinks the recorded 60-mph speed was on that stretch of highway, but he wasn’t sure. So the elder Bailey is thinking of getting an inexpensive GPS device and hopes he can correlate speed and location, so he can know where his son is driving at what speed.


So far, Bailey has few worries about his boy.


“His average speed is usually in the low 20s. It tells me that at 60 in a 55, he has never gone over my 5-mph threshold.”


The chip doesn’t really intrude on his driving, Jacob said.


“I really wouldn’t care if it was intrusive, but I don’t think it is,” the 16-year-old said. “It’s just his way of checking up on me because he can’t be in the car with me.


“If I was a parent, I’d like to know what was going on in the car. … I know he cares about me.


“Even though he trusts me, he pokes his nose in whenever he thinks he needs to.”


TO PARTICIPATE


The CarChip Teen Safe Driving Program still has some 60 free chips and software available. Janesville police Lt. Dan Davis encouraged interested Janesville parents to contact him at (608) 755-3149 for more information or to register.



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