Tattle app: U of M's phone app warns parents about risky teen driving

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It's not available yet, but someday parents may be able to use a smartphone app to spy on – uh, make that monitor – their teens who like to wheel around in the family car.

Crossroads, the research blog at the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies says the app, called Teen Driver Support System, provides a new link between young drivers and parents.

What does it do?

The smartphone, with the app downloaded, is clipped to the dashboard much like a GPS.

It sends parents a text alert as a result of a variety of risky driving moves ranging from speeding, failing to buckle up, or making sudden or rolling stops.

"The goal is, if you can reduce these risky behaviors, you can hopefully reduce crashes," researcher Janet Creaser told KSTP.

The Star Tribune accompanied Creaser, a research fellow at the University of Minnesota’s HumanFIRST Laboratory, on a test ride to demonstrate the app. As Creaser lead-footed the gas pedal, the device issued a stern warning.

“REDUCE SPEED NOW! ... PARENTS HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED,” a robotic voice blurts out.

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In addition to the text alerts, parents would also have access to a website detailing their teen’s driving habits.

Another plus for the app: once the car is moving, the phone can only make emergency calls – no texting, logging on to social media apps or taking incoming calls.

The Minnesota researchers spent a decade developing the project. They recently completed a study with 300 newly licensed teens. It found that teens who got feedback from the app were less likely to engage in risky driving behavior.

More than 90 percent of parents said they'd recommend it to other parents, the newspaper added.

The app isn't available yet. Creaser says the university is working to license it with an outside vendor.

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