Seat belts are such a simple technology, and so utterly simple to use. Yet 47% of people killed behind the wheel in 2017 were not wearing one. Teenagers are especially terrible at wearing a safety belt (and just terrible in general). To curb this tendency, Chevrolet has announced a new safety feature for its Teen Driver Mode that prevents the transmission from leaving Park if seat belts are not engaged.
Currently, Teen Driver Mode simply mutes the audio system in the car if belts are not in use, so this is really a ratcheting up of the passive-aggressiveness. Something teens know all about. Teen Driver Mode is a whole suite of features that are activated by the teen’s car key. Whenever the underage driver unlocks the car with their key, the entire vehicle turns into a safety cradle for the acne-prone and socially awkward amongst us. Parents can set maximum speeds allowed, speed alerts, and maximum audio volume. The system also automatically turns on more standard safety options like blind spot alerts, forward collision alert, and automatic braking. Lastly, the car totally narcs on the teen with a “driving report card” sent to parents.
This update to Teen Driver Mode will be standard on the new 2020 Chevrolet Traverse, and rolling out to the Malibu and Colorado as they are each updated in turn. Expect this feature to expand to the whole Chevy lineup as each vehicle is refreshed. In all seriousness, this is a great safety for teens and any driver in general. We asked Tricia Morrow, a lead engineer within Chevrolet Global Vehicle Safety why her team doesn’t roll out this seat belt transmission lock to every Chevy and essentially make safety belt use mandatory. She actually pointed out several instances (changing parking spots, idling to end of long driveway to check the mail) where this kind of rule would be overly protective and onerous. There are, of course, always “unforeseen driving circumstances” to use Morrow’s words. She also pointed out that technology like this has to start somewhere, and there’s nothing physically stopping it from rolling out to all drivers in the future. That would be just fine with us, but skip the driving report card please.