Teen driving won't be as much fun

DETROIT — So you think junior is a little too lead-footed when he drives the family car? Starting next year, Ford Motor Co. will give you the power to do something about it.

The company will roll out a new feature on many 2010 models that can limit teen drivers to 80 mph, using a computer chip in the key.

Parents also have the option of programming the teen's key to limit the audio system's volume, and to sound continuous alerts if the driver doesn't wear a seat belt.

The feature, called MyKey, will make its debut on the 2010 Focus compact car and move to other company models as a standard feature, the company said.

Ford arrived at the 80 mph limit — even though freeway speed limits are lower in most states — because it wanted to leave a margin in case an unusual situation arises, said Jim Buczkowski, Ford's director of electronic and electrical systems engineering. In some states, freeway speed limits are more than 70 mph.

Parents will have the option of having the car sound a chime if the teen exceeds 45, 55 or 65 mph.

More than 5,000 U.S. teenagers die each year in car crashes. The rate of crashes, fatal and non-fatal, per mile driven for 16-year-old drivers is almost 10 times the rate for drivers ages 30 to 59, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"Research we've done has shown that speeding is a major factor in teen crashes, especially novice teen drivers," said Anne McCartt, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's senior vice president for research. "So I think a system that tries to correct the speeding behavior has the potential to improve safety."