Although teen drivers make up a small percentage of the U.S. driving population, they are at an especially high risk of being involved in a crash. In fact, drivers between ages 16 and 19 have higher average annual crash rates than any other age group.
To help teen drivers stay safe on the road, researchers at the U of M’s HumanFIRST Laboratory have been working for nearly 10 years on the development of the Teen Driver Support System (TDSS). The smartphone-based application provides real-time, in-vehicle feedback to teens about their risky behaviors—and reports those behaviors to parents via text message if teens don’t heed the system’s warnings.
TDSS provides alerts about speed limits, upcoming curves, stop sign violations, excessive maneuvers, and seat belt use. It also prevents teens from using their phones to text or call (except 911) while driving.
The research team recently completed a 12-month field operational test of the system with funding from the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The test involved 300 newly licensed teens from 18 communities in Minnesota.
To measure the effectiveness of the TDSS on driving behavior, the teens were divided into three groups: a control group in which driving behavior was monitored but no feedback was given, a group in which the TDSS provided only in-vehicle feedback to teens, and a group with both in-vehicle and parent feedback from the TDSS.
Preliminary results show that teens in the TDSS groups engaged in less risky behavior, especially the group that included parent feedback. These teens were less likely to speed or to engage in aggressive driving.
Although these results demonstrate that the TDSS can be effective in reducing risky driving behavior in teens, Janet Creaser, HumanFIRST research fellow and a lead researcher on the project, stresses that technology is not a substitute for parent interaction.
“The whole goal of our system is to get parents talking to their teens about safe driving.” Creaser says. “And maybe, if you’re a parent getting 10 text messages a week, you’ll take your teen out and help them learn how to drive a little more safely.”
Read the full article in the November issue of Catalyst.