University researchers look to improve teen driving

Logan Wroge

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a smartphone application that warns new drivers if they engage in potentially dangerous situations.

For nearly 10 years, University research fellow Janet Creaser and other researchers have been working on the Teen Driver Support System, an application that monitors teen driving habits in real time.

Teenagers are warned verbally by the application if speeding, excessive maneuvers or other risky behaviors are detected.  If a teenager doesn’t stop the behavior, a text message will be sent to their parents, informing them of their child’s actions.

“Exceeding speed limit, reduce speed now,” a voice from the application repeats twice before a final warning. If a teenager ignores the third warning, parents receive a text message.

Other actions, like hard braking, excessive turns or blown stop signs, warrant an immediate warning to the parents. The University began recruiting 300 teens in January 2013 to participate in a 12-month test of the application.

Researchers divided the subjects into three groups. One group acted as a control and did not receive the smartphone application. The second group would hear in-vehicle feedback from the system, but no data was sent to parents. The final group received the full system with parental and in-vehicle feedback.

“The group that had the in-vehicle feedback with the parental monitoring had the lowest rate of risky behaviors from day one of the study,” Creaser said.

Creaser said the University is going to start licensing the application for commercial sale in the coming months.