Special Investigation: Watched at the Wheel Pt. II

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A recent study from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project reveals a shocking number of teens text while driving, but a WMBF News investigation has found that's not the only bad habit going on behind the wheel.

WMBF News installed video cameras in the vehicles of three teenagers at Socastee High School in Horry County to see exactly how dangerous teens are behind the wheel.

For Caitlin Purvis, it may not be about texting behind the wheel, but buckling up. The camera, which is operated by DriveCam, captured Purvis dressed up as Daisy Duke on Halloween night without a safety restraint. Not only was Purvis not buckled up, but the camera sensed her friends weren't, either.

Purvis says it was a simple misunderstanding.

"I put mine under my armpit instead of my neck, because I guess I'm short," she defended. "It rubs against my neck."

However, it wasn't her only mistake of the night. The camera also caught Purvis attempting to audition as Daisy Duke while driving, and that's when it taped her driving over a curb.

"I kind of turned too quick and went over the curb and got a little bit of air," she said.

While some might be impressed, DriveCam called it a dangerous move, and echoed its disapproval when Mike Fitzpatrick pulled a similar stunt when entering a car wash.

"Everybody was all jumbled up on one side, and I was like, 'I'm going through the parking lot,'" he said while watching the footage.

So how exactly can a camera installed on the rear-view mirror of a car catch all of the teens' mess-ups?

It all begins with blinking lights when the camera's sensor has detected an unusual amount of G-forces. It has to be in excess of .5G's for the camera to be triggered into recording the incident. Officials compare it to the same force when a passenger would feel the need to hold onto the car.

Parents can monitor the driving activity of their teen online, and it's something Dylan Way's father says he'll do on a regular basis.

"He'll just check it out to make sure I haven't gotten a little blinking action," said Way.

His father recently warned him that there would be consequences if the camera recorded too many dangerous moments. Way had a good track record until Monday, when the camera didn't catch a driving violation.

"I was speeding," Way confessed. "Over the big bridge and I wasn't really watching my speed."

Way was caught by local law enforcement pushing the pedal to the medal - to the tune of 62 mph in a 45 mph speed zone. He learned his lesson and was served with a $185 fine.

The teens participating in the WMBF News investigation will have their every move monitored behind the wheel for the next year. As for the teens, will the cameras make them more conscious of their driving habits?

"Probably a little bit," Fitzpatrick said. "People are just not going really fast. They're inching along and I get really mad and speed and get a little bit of road rage."

The hope is the cameras act like a mirror for the teen drivers, showing them the moments - road rage and all - that they'd just as soon forget.

©2009 WMBF News. All rights reserved.