Pilot program for teen drivers comes to Nevada | NevadaAppeal.com

Pilot program for teen drivers comes to Nevada

Rhonda Costa-Landers
Appeal Staff Writer

Cathleen Allison/Nevada AppealReagan Rivera, with VCM Collision Center, talks with Amber Gafford, 16, Tuesday afternoon after he installed a DriveCam in her car. The device, provided by her family's insurance company, is part of a pilot program to reduce risky teen driving behavior.

Sixteen-year-old Amber Gafford of Dayton got her driver’s license in January. Her parents, Malcolm and Mary Gafford, trust she is a responsible driver ” in and out of their sight.

However, Amber’s parents have volunteered her to be in a pilot program with their auto insurance company that involves putting a video camera in the car. Through American Family Insurance, Amber is part of the Teen Safe Driver Program, which became available in Nevada on Aug. 1. It began in Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and resulted in reduced risky driving behavior by at least 70 percent.

The camera is mounted to the windshield behind the rearview mirror. It only records audio and video when a sudden movement is sensed, such as swerving, hard braking, sudden acceleration and collisions. The unit sends the images and sounds wirelessly to an analysis center, where professional driving coaches review and assign each risky behavior a score.

Parents log on to a Web site to view the driving report card, video events and coaching tips. Parents also receive a weekly reminder via e-mail to log on. Clips are only seen by the parent and analysts. If there is an accident, the DriveCam gives parents the option of viewing the clip.

The video can also be subpoenaed by law enforcement following an accident.

“Our target ages are 16- and 17-year-olds,” said Robert Bean, American Family Insurance registered representative. “This program has increased seat belt use for this group 100 percent, and there was 70 percent fewer high-risk accidents.”

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Being a guinea pig for the program doesn’t bother Amber. But having people say teens are the only risky drivers does.

“They should watch other age groups, too,” Amber said. “Not all teens are bad drivers. And I always wear my seatbelt. I always have.”

“This is a tool for parent-child communication,” said Kathy McClintock, AFI representative. “It only works when the parents are actively involved.”

The most common reasons for accidents involving teens are: inattention, inexperience and inability to manage distractions.

“It’s the kids’ attitudes, too,” said Karen Coleman, AFI representative. “Kids think they’re invincible. We’re doing this as a way for parents to see their children’s driving habits, and to save lives and prevent injuries.”

“I do have a heavy foot,” Amber admitted. “I sometimes drive about 5 miles over the speed limit. But I drive carefully.”

Bean said there is no cost to their clients and there is no adjustment to their insurance rates.

“I just want my clients to be safe,” McClintock said.

The program is free for the first year to AFI clients. To continue, the client must contact DriveCam.