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Last Updated: Friday, 25 April 2008, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
Black box 'spies on younger drivers'
Tamsyn Kent
Newsbeat reporter, Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire

Stephanie and Malcolm Harris
Stephanie Harris with dad Malcolm
Younger drivers could soon be monitored to check how safe they are.

A new black-box device, which is no bigger than a matchbox and fits on your dashboard, is being trialled by Staffordshire County Council.

Electronic sensors inside it can pick up how hard the car accelerates, brakes and the G-force round corners.

For the driver behind the wheel it flashes up green, amber and red lights to let them know when to slow down or take things a bit easier.

The more red lights they are showing, the more likely they are to be involved in an accident.

The results of the journey are then sent back to a website, so mums and dads can see how careful their kids are being.

Safety Centre screenshot
Parents can log-on and see how safe their kids' driving is

The ĎSafety Centreí as itís really called, made by a company called GreenRoad, is already on sale in the States.

In the UK road safety experts hope itíll help cut down on accidents.

In Staffordshire alone, more than 40% of accidents where someone is killed or seriously injured involve a driver aged under 25 - yet that's only 10% of the people who live there.

Stephanie Harris, whoís 18-years-old, got one fitted as part of the trial after she had an accident in her Vauxhall Corsa. It was her dadís idea.

She says: ďI thought it would be quite interesting to see if I am actually a bad driver or not. And plus hopefully my insurance might go down at some point.Ē

Cheaper premiums

Insurance companies in the UK are taking an interest. It could be used to cut premiums for those people who can prove they drive carefully.

Stephanie Harris
Steph says she doesn't feel like she's being spied on
Malcolm Tarling from the Association of British Insurers said: ďAnything 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.Ē

The box has come under criticism for being nothing more than a device to allow parents to spy on their children.

Some say it gives them the chance to be backseat drivers in their teenagerís cars, without ever leaving home.

For Stephanieís dad, Malcolm Harris, thatís not what itís about. He said: ďItís not a spy in the car, itís an aid, itís like having an experienced driver in the car with you.Ē

Stephanie reckons itís not too intrusive. ďWhen Iím actually driving, I donít feel like Iím being spied on", she said.

"Itís when I go back into the house and dadís in front of the computer and heís like 'Steph we need to talk about your driving,' Itís then that it hits home.Ē

Although, the black box device is aimed at younger, inexperienced drivers, it can be used by anyone. Itís hoped in future it could be hired for around £20 a month.



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