BANGOR, Maine — Ford Motor Co.’s new MyKey technology is designed to keep teenage drivers safe, and it does so by restricting speed and radio volume and by alerting them when they don’t have their seat belts buckled.
The MyKey “automatically tells the car there is a different driver” behind the wheel, said Jennifer Burke, a Ford representative from southern Maine who was at Darling’s Ford on Tuesday to introduce the MyKey technology.
When a MyKey-equipped car is purchased, the owner is given a master key that can be used to program the secondary MyKey, which has an embedded transponder chip.
Parents can use the technology to set the top speed of the vehicle at 80 mph when the MyKey is in use; can limit the music system’s volume to 44 percent of the total volume; and can mute the music and send out a repeating alert chime if the seat belts of the driver and front passenger are not fastened.
“No seat belt — no radio,” Ron Russell, director of Bangor operations for Darling’s Ford, said about the new technology, which was rolled out in late August with the new 2010 vehicles.
The technology also can be set so alert chimes sound when drivers reach speeds of 45, 55 and 65 mph and when fuel is low. It also ensures parents that traction control and other safety capabilities cannot be deactivated.
“It just raises teen drivers’ awareness,” Burke said.
The preprogrammed restrictions will go into effect only when the MyKey is in use and are turned off when the master key is used.
The master key also is needed to program the vehicle, so “a teenager can’t override what their parents are setting,” Burke said, adding the MyKey kickoff coincides with National Teen Driver Safety Week, held annually on the third week in October.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for drivers ages 15 to 20, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and teens are more likely to take risks such as speeding, which is a contributing factor in 30 percent of all fatal crashes.
National data also show that teens are less likely to wear seat belts.
Teens don’t like the new technology, but their parents do because it gives them peace of mind, Burke said.
“Ford has done extensive research on driver safety — they’ve spoken to parents and spoken to teens,” she said. “While it’s true teens initially said they didn’t like the [MyKey] restrictions, teens are more open to the restrictions if they have more time behind the wheel.”
Russell said “a handful” of MyKey-equipped cars are already on local roads.
MyKey technology is standard equipment for all 2010 Ford Focus vehicles, and is an option in many other Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models, Burke said.
Many of those vehicles also are equipped with SYNC, a software developed by Ford and Microsoft that allows hands-free use of MP3 and other music players and Bluetooth-enabled cell phones and other technologies in vehicles, Burke said.
Customers who like the MyKey technology can order it for an additional cost on other cars and trucks where it is not standard equipment, she said.
“It’s certainly a great feature and will help encourage [teen] seat belt use, limit speeding and prevent distractions,” Burke said.
Burke will demonstrate the device in Westbrook today, and other demonstrations will take place at dealerships in Rhode Island and Connecticut later this week, she said.