As Tom Cruise exclaimed in “Top Gun,” “I feel the need, the need for speed!”
I, too, feel this need, and when I had a car, I would give into it regularly. I make no secret of it: I love to drive, and I love to drive fast. Driving at dangerously fast speeds creates a rush that I think everyone should experience at least once in their lives. But then along comes Ford Motor Co., here to rain on my parade and stop teen drivers from doing what we do best: drive fast.
Recently, Ford announced a feature known as “MyKey” that will limit the driver to a speed of 80 miles per hour by installing a computer chip in the car key. Ford settled on the speed because it figured it needed to allow a little wiggle room, in case an “unusual situation arises.” The option will be available when the 2010 line of Ford cars debuts next summer. Ford also has an option for parents to enable six-second chime that triggers every time a car exceeds 45, 55 or 65 mph.
This new invention is a crime against all humanity, or at very least, the teenage parts of it. Ford is essentially enabling parents to limit the free will of their children, and I won’t stand for it. Driving at ridiculously fast speeds is part of the teenage experience. There’s nothing wrong with cruising at 90 mph on an empty highway. That’s making time, not endangering anyone’s life. Pushing a car to its limits is a rite of passage, and while it shouldn’t be encouraged, it is to be expected from teenagers.
While the intentions of Ford to cut down on dangerous driving by teenagers are noble, it’s attacking the wrong issue. The problem isn’t how much teenagers are speeding; it’s where they are speeding. Going 60 mph down a town road is far more dangerous than beating 80 mph down an empty expressway. There’s no way “MyKey” can protect against dangerous driving practices — it can’t stop street racing, doesn’t have a breathalyzer in it and can’t prevent drivers from running red lights.
It also doesn’t solve the most dangerous part of teenage driving: distractions. While it does a feature a device that limits the volume of a car’s stereo system, it hardly stops bigger and more hazardous distractions. It can’t stop teenage passengers from yelling loudly, keep them from pressuring the driver into performing dangerous maneuvers or stop drivers from acting half their age.
By limiting the maximum speed of teen drivers, “MyKey” attempts to solve one of the numerous problems with teens driving. While admirable, it fails miserably. Dangerous speeds are all relative, and to put a single maximum speed on the teenager without factoring in the situation is like trying to patch a pipe without knowing how big the leak is. “MyKey” is merely a cheap marketing ploy to appeal to parents of teenagers without addressing the real problems of teenage driving. A better investment would be to give away vouchers for free driver’s education classes, which actually have a chance of impacting teenage drivers.
Ford is undoubtedly going to market this as a revolutionary measure in increasing safety on the road. And undoubtedly many parents are going to buy into it without thinking whether it will really protect their own teenagers or those who are driving on the same roads as them. Ford is right to look for ways to protect teen drivers from themselves, but it should go back to the drawing board to try and find a system that actually works. When it does develop a technology that can truly help prevent teenage recklessness behind the wheel, I’ll fully support it.
But until then, I’m going to enjoy driving as fast as I can within reasonable limits. Don’t try to stop me.
Edward McPhee is an LSA freshman.