By on August 19, 2017

toyota safe and sound teen, Image: Toyota

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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28 Comments on “Toyota’s Safe-driving App Relies on Embarrassing Teenagers...”

  • avatar

    Study after study says you shouldn’t even both with the threat of personal injury — kids think they’re invincible. Like it says above, embarrassment and loss of status are major motivators. Another one is the threat of losing their license (which could also fit the first two categories, since suddenly you’re bumming rides everywhere).

    Personally, I’m all for more “authoritarianism” with these situations. I think licensing should be tiered for different power and size levels, so at least we could mitigate some of the potential damage. Curfews help a bit, but can be hard to enforce. Stiffer penalties are almost always the other side of the coin — if you can’t have perfect enforcement, you have to have harsher consequences.

    If it comes down to the choices above vs. being forced to drive an autonomous car or take mass transit, I’m willing to be flexible, especially with inexperienced drivers.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    Unless you have a goody two shoes kid, he won’t really shake the bad habits until he rear ends someone or at least has a close call. Learning how to multitask while driving is always a painful process. Luckily I only lightly rear ended a steel-bumpered Expedition at low speeds with a sympathetic mom who let me off the hook before I learned to stop being distracted and leave distance.

    I also think if you need this app your kid is not ready to drive alone.

    Michael Jackson is embarrassing, and Uzi Vert sounding like he’s rapping during a cough syrup and random pills induced seizure isn’t?

    Why the hell would you want to have kids?

    • 0 avatar

      10 seconds in to that spot I wanted to punch that douche when he made the “gimme the keys” motion with the s**t-eating grin.

      ah well, I guess these days the word “no” falls out of your vocabulary when you have kids.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      Clarification: The Expedition driver was a sympathetic mom, not my mom.

    • 0 avatar

      Nah, not even that will help. I was a goody two shoes kid, straight A’s, and even I had the ’64 Riviera up to 100 on local roads. I managed never to get stopped by the police, so I had free reign from my parents. Of course, the apple had not fallen far from the tree – my mom was a hot foot too – that’s why they bought the Riviera in the first place, and the even larger engined Toronado after that.

  • avatar

    If you say no you will hurt his/hers self esteem …damaging him/her for life
    Don’t you know that :=)

  • avatar

    Introduce harsher fines and penalties for distracted drivers and hopefully that will encourage safer driving practices.

    Nobody should be driving and texting / checking their Facebook at the same time. It boggles my mind how anyone can be that… stupid. There is simply no excuse for driving irresponsibly.

    • 0 avatar

      I know it. I was riding with this crazy b¡tch one time, here we are doing 80 in a Ford Focus with her kids in the back and she decided its time to read a magazine.

      Seriously, she pulls out some terrible magazine targeted at teen aged girls and lays it over the airbag cover/horn pad and is flipping pages while driving by Braille (wondering between one set of bump strips to the ones on the other side).

      I was like, you want me to drive?

      “Why? I’m good.”

      (7 year old in the back seat)
      “She does this all the time.”

      After that, I decided I could drive my own car rather than take my chances with her.

  • avatar

    I got my license at around 4pm.

    By 5pm I was with my friends on the freeway going about 100pmh.

    No app in the world is going to stop the stupidity of 16 year olds.

  • avatar

    Any chance we can use embarrassment and loss of status to get teens to drive manual transmissions?

  • avatar

    I live in Toronto and spend 2 hours a day on the freeways. The number of people I see on their phones is beyond belief, especially since the Province recently brought in some really tough laws about it. The message isn’t just not getting through, it’s being held in contempt.

  • avatar

    I keep reading that kids today don’t even want a license until they leave home at age 36, so what problem does this really solve?

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve met a startling number of people in their 20s who have never had a license, a car, nor were they ever taught to drive.


      All I could think about as a kid was getting old enough to drive. And I still love it, my life would be far worse if I were unable to drive. I hope and pray my physical issues don’t put me in that position.

      • 0 avatar

        My best friend’s brother-in-law is a 50 year-old Navy vet (in somewhat decent health) who has never shown the slightest interest in getting a license or owning a car. Lived on his own for years, but moved back in with his mother a year or so ago. (Just doesn’t want to spend money on anything but comic books!) When he can’t ride his bike to the nearby hospital where he works as a cook in their food-services area, his 70-something mom has to haul him around.

        His brothers have tried to convince him that even a Kia Rio or some little commuter-bomb would be perfect for him to be able to go back and forth to work, or help his mother! My friend has tried it too, but just as with her husband’s and other brother’s pleas, it falls on deaf ears!

  • avatar

    That girl was too hot for him anyway.

  • avatar

    I think a big part of safe teen driving is buying the right car for teens as well. Slow, boring, reliable transportation. Something that they don’t necessarily want to draw attention to because it’s uncool. Take away incentive to show off. At least for teen boys.

  • avatar

    I really really like this, and it has nothing to do with my kids. I would turn my speed warning back on if it played carmina burana every time I crested 85 or logged multiple high g maneuvers.

    On the kids side I would load filthy old school hip hop. I like the idea of my future 16 year old having to deal with full volume akinyele every time they act like an idiot.

  • avatar

    In my opinion, this is stupid contrived marketing excriment. There is no reality or usefulness here. This is about selling really terrible cars to stupid people with dumb kids. This whole concept is horse poop. First off- punishment music sounds really god damn distracting. Also unbelieveably insulting (to the musicians, to the listener, to the “parent”, to the individual giving your distracted child road fellatio, etc) . If your favorite music is so bad that other people find it punishing find new music or find new people. Second- I think this article is misleading. What else are young people supposed to be dying from? Small pox? Scurvey? Blunt force trama? Drugs? War? Terrorosm? Vampires? Reality TV? How many accidents as a percentage of all accidents are caused by young people? How many young people die every year compared to old people? This sounds like a fake chrisis fabricated to make people money.
    Finally- cars are easy to drive, and streaming music in a car over bluetooth sounds like dog shit anyway. How about we do the following:
    1 teach people to drive in some kind of useful and thorough manner.
    2 listen to decent music.
    3 not buy into this thick, warm, sticky marketing fluid dripping from this damp article.

  • avatar

    “Helicopter parenting is definitely a blight on society” There is helicopter parenting, and there is staying involved in your kids’ lives. Be involved, know (as best you can) what they are up to, but let them make mistakes. I like the idea of this app, even if there are workarounds.

    Then again, most teens think Michael Jackson and most of ’80s music is cool (like how we rediscovered Skynard and Zepplin).

  • avatar

    I believe Darwin will sort out the idiots. That includes any passengers stupid enough to go along stupid driving and not demand to let out of the car.
    When my daughter was a teenager in the mid-00’s she knew she could call me at any time to come pick her up, for any reason. She did twice related to driving, once refusing to get back in a car and once demanding to be let out mid-destination.

    Vehicle selection is also critical. Bought a 10-year-old Miata for my daughter. Only one passenger. 4-cylinder. Nimble to avoid problems. And most importantly an MT. The actual act of *driving* doesn’t allow free time to fiddle with social media, etc.

    Then there is parental driving education. Unfortunately, most parents of current teenagers were never properly educated themselves. You could make every car a Faraday Cage and most drivers on the road today would still be terrible.

    • 0 avatar

      “I believe Darwin will sort out the idiots.”

      that’s great and all, except the idiots in these cases often take innocent people with them. like the s**t-head kids I saw once who took to sailing through red lights at intersections laughing their heads off.

  • avatar

    The problem is, cars are way too safe.

    When you don’t have antilock brakes or an airbag, you drive differently.

    A contributing factor is that people who don’t enjoy driving will look to do other things while behind the wheel. I love driving, so it’s not a temptation for me.

    To prepare my son to be a responsible driver, I will raise him on a steady diet of the Dukes of Hazzard, Smokey and the Bandit, and Cannonball Run.

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