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'U' Develops Smart Phone App For Teen Drivers

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers.

That's why researchers at the University of Minnesota are using smart phones to keep teens safe behind the wheel.

The Teen Driver Support System, or TDSS, is like having an extra parent in the car at all times.

It monitors speeding, excessive maneuvers and stop sign violations.

It also prevents any texting or phone calls, unless it's to 911, according to researcher Janet Creaser of the U of M's Department of Mechanical Engineering.

"The ultimate goal really is to hopefully reduce crashes," Creaser said. "We found that the system did significantly reduce the rate of the risky behaviors that we were monitoring."

The app lets teens know with both visual and auditory warnings. It gives teens a chance to correct their behavior, before sending a text message to their parents.

"What we know from many years of … research is that parents involved, who stay involved in the management of their teens driving, and really want to know what's happening behind the wheel of the car can reduce their rates of crashes," Creaser said. "It's sort of win-win for the teen and the parent. The parent can help their teen be safer on the road, the teen can get that valuable driving experience that they need."

For Creaser, the app is a result of years of research, but it's also personal.

"I have three children who will someday be teen drivers," she said. "I would like for these things to be available for me to use."

The app is not available for parents and teens just yet.

The U of M is hoping it will be ready in the next few months.

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