February 18, 2015

New app to notify parents of bad driving behavior

Researchers have developed a new smartphone app that texts parents if their teenager is engaging in risky driving behavior such as speeding or blowing through stop signs.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota developed the Teen Driver Support System (TDSS) smartphone app and tested it in a study involving 300 newly licensed teens from 18 Minnesota communities.

The app automatically prevents teens from using their phones or texting while driving except to call emergency services, a critical safety component since distracted driving is a frequent cause of car accidents and deaths.

“Ultimately, we did the research because we wanted to reduce traffic crashes and deaths among teens,” said Janet Creaser, a research fellow at the University of Minnesota’s HumanFIRST Laboratory.

In the study, the teens were divided into three groups — a control group that received no feedback from the smartphone, a group that received only in-vehicle feedback, and a final group that received both in-vehicle and parental feedback. They were tracked for 12 months.

If the teen violated good driving etiquette, their parents received a text message. Parents also had access to a website detailing their teen’s driving “events and behaviors” over a longer period of time.

Teens in the groups that got feedback from the TDSS smartphone were less likely to engage in risky driving behavior.

More than 90% parents said they would recommend the app to other parents.

Researchers hope that a commercial version of the app is available by the end of the year.