Page last updated at 11:06 GMT, Friday, 25 April 2008 12:06 UK

Car black box tackles accidents

Steph Harris
New driver Steph Harris, 18, said the scheme had improved her driving

"Black box recorders" are being fitted to young drivers' cars in an attempt to reduce the number of accidents.

The device uses motion sensors to record when drivers brake late, take a corner too fast or swerve.

Warning lights appear in the car and the recorded data is put on a website accessible by drivers' parents.

The scheme is being piloted in Staffordshire, where drivers aged under 25 are involved in 40% of accidents, but make up just 10% of motorists.

Police figures show 20% of drivers aged under 21 have an accident in their first year on the road.

Adrian Hide, road safety manager at Staffordshire County Council, said the device was not aimed at "boy or girl racers" who he said were in the minority.

"The majority of drivers are ordinary people who go out there, they've got a car and they are vulnerable because of their inexperience and their age and they're out there in the vast majority," he said.

"Now this particular piece of equipment is there to help them."

Dangerous habits

The council is looking for more volunteer young drivers and their families to take part in the trial.

The scheme begins by establishing the motorist's driving style and drivers are only able to analyse their performance online after the first month.

Youngsters can then have any dangerous habits coached out of their driving.

Mr Hide said most newly-qualified drivers think they are good drivers.

I worry sick about her when she's out in the car. I know she drives too quickly, but I don't want to be a nagging dad
Malcolm Harris, Steph's father

He said: "But this cunning device can graphically illustrate where they could go wrong.

"It's important to get parents on board because they often buy and insure their offspring's first car for them.

"Many go through agonies worrying about whether they are driving safely, but now they can see for themselves."

'Wasn't too happy'

Among the first participants are Malcolm Harris and his 18-year-old daughter Steph, from Bignall End, near Stoke-on-Trent.

Ms Harris has already had one accident which left her with whiplash injuries.

She said: "I admit that I drive too quickly, but I think most people my age tend to.

"At first I wasn't too happy about the thought that my dad could watch how I was driving, but I'm getting used to it, and it's making a real difference."

Mr Harris said: "I worry sick about her when she's out in the car. I know she drives too quickly, but I don't want to be a nagging dad.

"This technology is wonderful because it can present her with the stark facts."

Insurance companies are also believed to be interested, with the possibility that using the device could cut premiums for people who demonstrate they drive carefully.

Malcolm Tarling, from the Association of British Insurers, said: "Anything we can do to encourage safer, more responsible driving is going to reduce the accident rate, reduce the claims rate and hopefully reduce premiums as well."

Anyone wanting to join the scheme should contact Adrian Hide at the county council.

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