Chevrolet Buckle-to-Drive: Another Hassle for Teens, but It Could Save Lives

Want to drive the folks’ Chevy to the levy and you’re still in high school? Chevrolet just added one more nanny feature to its four-year Teen Driver system. This time it’s a 20-second delay from when the engine starts before you can shift out of Park if the driver hasn’t buckled his or her seat belt. Buckle up before you start and you can shift into Drive or Reverse right away.

Chevy has statistics on its side: An Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) study found that occasional seat belts users (any age) increased usage by 16 percent when confronted with a 20-second delay before they could drive off. Chevrolet calls it Buckle to Drive. It will initially be on the 2020 Chevrolet Traverse, Malibu, and Colorado, all arriving this summer.


Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of deaths among driving-age teens (16 to 19), although suicides, homicides, and most of all drug overdoses are sloping upward and could surpass motor vehicle fatalities. Right now, teens are the demographic with the lowest rate of seat belt use, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Chevrolet’s partial solution to keep teen drivers, and their passengers, safe and alive got a boost with its Teen Driver feature in 2015. It’s a series of prompts, locks, limiters, nag reminders, and other things you might love as a parent even if you’re happy they weren’t inflicted on you in your own teenage years.

Teen Driver is enabled via the key used by the teenagers. It’s enabled whenever the car is started. It comprises:

  • A report card for drivers and parents to share and dicuss: distance driven, max speed traveled, over-speed warnings issued, wide-open throttle events, and the number of times other safety systems were activated, including stability control, traction control, and antilock braking.
  • On startup, the radio stays mute until both driver and passenger seat belts are buckled. Thereafter, parents can set a max volume level.
  • Forward collision warning and other safety features are automatically enabled.
  • Parents can set a speed warning (anywhere between 40 and 75 mph) that chimes when exceeded. Additionally, parents can set a hard cap on max speed: 85 mph.

Chevrolet says the newest feature cannot be backward-incorporated into the 2015-2019 cars that currently have Teen Driver.

Chevrolet is helping lead the way on teen safety. But the industry as a whole — including Chevrolet — could do more.

Right now, automakers aren’t taking advantage of the car’s GPS system, maps, and the OCR software in forward-facing cameras to customize alerts and limits to the type of road being driven.

The geofencing feature in some cars lets parents draw a circle of 5, 10, 20 miles from home and if the young driver goes outside the fence, it sends a text to parents or compiles a list of transgressions that can be discussed later. It’s simplistic. Parents might rather be able to draw an amoeba-shaped map that is the allowed driving area for school nights that would exclude the mall even if it’s inside the 10-mile zone, or a troublesome boyfriend’s house, etcetera.

The fixed-speed cap isn’t what parents want. They want a tool that tracks the driver’s speed relative to the posted limit. Map data now includes speed limit data on most roads that’s updated regularly, and the lane departure warning/forward collision warning cameras can read speed limit signs. Ask automakers why they haven’t done that and you’re told: Not all roads have data. Sometimes the cameras don’t pick up a speed sign. But most of the time the technology does work. It’s something Chevrolet and others could implement to give parents more meaningful information when they talk safety.

All of this will make for safer teenage drivers. Well, that, or they’ll just shift to Uber and Lyft.

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