Toyota’s Safe-driving App Relies on Embarrassing Teenagers

Teen drivers have the highest crash rate of any demographic. Younger drivers are most likely to use their phones while driving or speed in high-traffic areas, and roughly half of all accidents associated with younger drivers were single-vehicle crashes. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, motor-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among individuals under 20.

Keeping younger drivers safe is a major concern for institutions like the National Safety Council, but some automakers have their own initiatives. Toyota, for example, had TeenDrive365, which provided a series of online videos aimed at encouraging safer driving habits. While the automaker abandoned that program after 2014, resulting in all of its content mysteriously vanishing, Toyota still seems keen on keeping young motorists on the road and out of the morgue.

However, what’s the best way to encourage responsible driving? Teens don’t like being placated, and they probably know the laws better than older drivers (as they’ve passed their written test far more recently). With this in mind, Toyota thinks humiliation may be the key. The automaker has made mortifying easily embarrassed teens the central theme of its new safety app. 

Partnering with Saatchi & Saatchi London, Toyota designed its Safe and Sound app to monitor the activities of new drivers and intrude when they mess up by playing the parent’s totally uncool music playlist. While this isn’t much of a punishment if you have hip parents or aren’t awkwardly self-conscious, it should work as prescribed for the average teenager.

Showcased in AdWeek, the app requires all members of the family to download the app and (if they want the audio deterrent) link it to their Spotify accounts. When a teen asks to borrow a parent’s car, parents click a button and the app uses the Google Maps API to track how fast the driver is going. Once it senses that the vehicle is moving faster than 9 mph, it automatically flips into a “do not disturb” setting, blocking all incoming calls and social media notifications.

If the young driver is caught speeding or the phone signals that it’s being handled, the music selection swaps from Odd Future or One Direction to Steely Dan, Michael Jackson, or The Human League — depending on the coolness of the adults.

One obvious loophole to this safety app is the existence of the volume knob. There also isn’t anything stopping a teen from deactivating the application. However, if that occurs, one would hope the concerned parents suspend their child’s driving privileges until they’re willing to play ball.

Helicopter parenting is definitely a blight on society, but trying to keep teens from crashing is something worth exerting some extra effort over — even if it just results in less apprehension. Saatchi & Saatchi claims 74 percent of parents are more concerned about their kids getting into a car accident than getting into drugs or crime. This makes sense, as doing drugs and petty vandalism are both a lot more fun than dying in a car accident.

“Tell teenagers to turn their phone off in a cinema and they will — tell them to turn it off in a dangerous situation, like driving a car, and they won’t. Go figure,” said Jason Mendes, executive creative director of Global brands at Saatchi & Saatchi. “However, for teenagers, the threat of embarrassment is far more severe than the threat of injury — that insight we thought was a powerful platform to create something that would cut through, make a difference and ultimately continue the conversation around safety.”

The automaker says the app is currently Android-only and will expand globally after its European launch.


[Image: Toyota]


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