ANDREW SARKISIAN: FORD SAFETY MANAGER SAYS MYKEY TECHNOLOGY ISN’T ABOUT CONTROL, IT’S ABOUT MOTIVATION

ANDREW SARKISIAN: FORD SAFETY MANAGER SAYS MYKEY TECHNOLOGY ISN’T ABOUT CONTROL, IT’S ABOUT MOTIVATION


Andrew Sarkisian, Ford’s Safety Strategy Manager
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  • Andrew Sarkisian, part of the brainstorming team behind Ford’s MyKey™ technology, was motivated not only be teen driving statistics, but by watching his own two teenage daughters
  • MyKey technology allows parents to program a key to limit speed and audio volume in the vehicle in order to encourage seat belt usage and promote safe driving habits

Andrew Sarkisian easily can cite the facts and figures that back up the need for MyKey, Ford’s new technology that allows parents to limit speed and audio volume in their vehicles and encourage safe driving habits in their teens.

But Ford’s safety strategy manager will tell you straight up that much of the inspiration behind the innovation actually came from home.

"We were brainstorming at work, thinking, ‘Is there anything we could do to our vehicles, anything we could add, to keep our kids safer?’" recalls Sarkisian, who has been with Ford for 31 years. "And I was living out the scenario at home."

At the time, he recalls, his younger daughter Kristin was going through driver’s education training, and his older daughter Lauren had just received her driver’s license. He and his wife Sharon knew they couldn’t always sit in that passenger’s seat and offer direction. But, he wondered, was there a technology that could?

"MyKey is not about control – it’s not anything that dramatic," he says. "It’s about love. It’s about helping your children manage that transition from childhood to adulthood and keeping them safe while they do it."

Ford’s MyKey feature, now standard equipment across many Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models, allows owners to program a key that can limit the vehicle’s top speed to 80 mph and audio volume to less than half the maximum. MyKey also encourages safety belt usage, provides earlier low-fuel warnings and can be programmed to sound special chimes at 45, 55 and 65 mph.

Teen driving habits
The transition from teen to adult driver can be deadly, Sarkisian knows. He cites government data that show 58 percent of 16 to 20-year-olds involved in fatal accidents were unbuckled. Add to that the fact that seat belt usage is lowest among teenagers, although seat belt usage is cited as the No. 1 life-saving device in accidents, and the nail-biting episodes in parents can rise substantially every time an eager teen slides behind the wheel.

"You want to teach them these good habits early on," Sarkisian says. "But how can we keep them motivated when we’re not in the passenger seat? That’s where MyKey comes in."

Starting those safety habits early pays off, Sarkisian believes – and a little reminding never hurts. He remembers how years ago his neighbor’s teenage son was enamored of the Ford vehicles Sarkisian would bring home as a Ford employee. One year, he recalls, the young man asked if he could borrow a car to take his date to prom. Sarkisian said yes, but only after laying down three ground rules:

  • Seat belts were a must
  • There would be no drinking or substance abuse
  • The car would be returned in the same condition it was loaned

Prom night went fine and life went on, Sarkisian remembers. He would later apply those rules to his own kids when they borrowed the car. Years later, Sarkisian received a letter from the former neighbor boy. He’d been in a crash – not as a driver, but as a passenger. Trained well by Sarkisian, he had been wearing a seat belt and wasn’t injured. The driver, not buckled in, wasn’t so lucky. Those ground rules, the former neighbor wrote, probably saved his life.

Sarkisian’s daughter Lauren, also taught well by her parents, always wears a seat belt. She’s been in two rollover accidents, saved from serious injury, Sarkisian believes, by buckling up.

"I see MyKey as offering a little peace of mind for parents," Sarkisian said. "I can’t always be there. But I think about what I would tell my kids when they were learning to drive. I’d tell them ‘Buckle your seat belt.’ ‘Watch your speed.’ ‘And turn down that radio.’ MyKey is a choice. It’s just one more tool in mom and dad’s toolbox."

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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 201,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com.

Oct. 5, 2009

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