Chevy’s new Buckle to Drive feature makes sure teens use seat belts

Parents have worried about their teenagers driving since long before the Beach Boys sang about a girl losing the privilege to drive her father’s sports car. Now, Chevrolet eases the worry of a young driver cruising without using a seat belt. Debuting on the 2020 Traverse SUV, Malibu sedan, and Colorado pickup, Chevrolet has augmented its Teen Driving mode to include the auto industry’s first “Buckle to Drive” system, which temporarily prevents shifting the transmission out of park unless the driver’s seat belt is fastened.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that the majority of teens killed while driving are unbuckled. According to the CDC, teens are among the drivers least likely to use seat belts. That has tragically fatal consequences as motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for American teenagers. In 2016, there were 2433 16- to 19-year-olds killed in car crashes, with almost more 300,000 being injured seriously enough to need emergency medical care.

Chevy decided to implement Buckle to Drive after running a pilot test with the assistance of some of its fleet customers. The results were similar to an Insurance Institute of Highway Safety study that showed that adults who usually only sometimes wore seat belts increased belt use by 16 percent when driving vehicles equipped with comparable interlocks.

Chevrolet’s Teen Driver system buckle up

Buckle to Drive works in a straightforward manner. If the car is running and the driver steps on the brake pedal, an audible alert is triggered and the instrument panel displays a “Buckle seat belt to shift” message. If the harness is not fastened, the transmission will not shift out of park for up to 20 seconds. To avoid irritating conscientious adult drivers and “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” parents, Buckle to Drive only works when the vehicle is already in Teen Driver mode.

The Teen Driver system works by recognizing a key fob that has been registered in the vehicle’s settings as being assigned to a novice driver. The system is rather clever in how it anticipates the behavior of teenagers. They could just wait 20 seconds, but what impetuous teen is going to do that? The mode is unlocked with a PIN, which prevents your kid from changing those settings. When the vehicle is started with a registered fob, the audio system is muted until the driver and front passenger are belted in. No tunes without belts, and the system can also be set to lower the maximum audio volume allowed. The adults can also select the speed at which their teen will get visual and audible warnings to slow down. If the car is equipped with advanced driver assists like Forward Collision Alert, they are activated when the car is started and presumably cannot be deactivated while in Teen Driver mode.

GM Teen Driver system

Teen Driver isn’t just a nanny. It’s also a tattle-tale that clues in parents when their kid is having too much “fun, fun, fun” behind the wheel. Teen Driver includes an industry-first in-vehicle “report card” that tracks the distance driven, maximum speed, the number of speed warnings alerted, wide-open throttle “events,” and how often stability, traction, and antilock braking systems have been activated.

Chevy’s Teen Driver system, including Buckle to Drive, will be standard equipment on the 2020 Traverse, Malibu, and Colorado when they arrive at dealers this summer.

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