When handing over the keys to the family car, parents of teen drivers have every right to be worried.
Not only are teen drivers statistically the most likely to crash, they are also more likely to speed and less likely to wear seatbelts than older drivers.
In an effort to help parents curtail risky driving and promote safe driving habits, Ford has designed the MyKey system, which will debut on the 2010 Ford Focus.
The MyKey system allows parents to program any key through the Focus' vehicle message center and turn on a range of safety-concious settings. These settings are stored in the car and activated when the specific key is inserted into the ignition.
The MyKey system can be programmed to include a persistent reminder to buckle up — not only will a reminder beep continue to nag the driver, the stereo is muted until the driver's seat belt is fastened. A message center display “Buckle Up to Unmute Radio” also appears on the instrument cluster.
To combat the dreaded lead-footed teenager, the MyKey system can also be programmed to limit the car's top speed to 80 mph.
Parents can also limit the volume of the car's stereo, permanently activate the traction control system and set a speed alert chime to sound at 45, 55 or 65 mph.
The speed alert system has an added benefit: improved fuel economy. According to studies conducted by Ford, driving at 55 mph instead of 65 mph consumes 15 percent less fuel.
By mastering other eco-driving habits such as avoiding jackrabbit starts and excessive idling, young drivers can help improve fuel economy by more than 30 percent, according to studies conducted by Ford.
Ultimately, the MyKey system is an innovative tool to promote safe driving, even if teens ultimately chafe at the system's electronic leash.
No doubt Ford is banking on the MyKey system to make the Ford Focus a popular choice for both parents and teens alike, the latter of which may be appeased by the optional SNYC multimedia system that is offered in the Focus and other Ford vehicles.