AutoCoach - An App to Help Parents Model and Monitor Teen Drivers

AutoCoachTeens are a vulnerable population when it comes to driving- as car crashes are the biggest killer of young adults. While these numbers had been decreasing for the last decade, there is now a significant uptick nationwide and at home, especially in Georgia. To combat this, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, CapTech and Shepherd Center have developed a mobile app that is free to download both state-wide and nationally. The app is geared towards parents of new drivers and guides them through exactly how to teach their teen how to drive.

While it varies by state, 40 hours of supervised driving is mandated for teens to obtain their license in Georgia. This is often a fraught time for both parents and teens, as rarely are parents trained to actually teach their teens to safely operate and maintain an automobile.  We know that teens aged 16-19 are 3 times more likely to die in a car crash, and car crashes are the leading cause of death for this age group (CDC). In Georgia between 2012 and 2014 young people aged 16-17 had the highest fatality rate due to motor vehicle crashes. With 175,677 drivers aged 16-17 in Georgia getting their license in 2015, this is a big problem.

Studies have shown that one of the most protective factors against teenage morbidity and mortality due to motor vehicle traffic injuries are parents who model, monitor and enforce safe driving practices. Instead of creating an app geared towards teens, we would like to directly target the population tasked with protecting their lives- their parents.

The role parents play in their teens learning how to drive is an important one. Several studies have shown that the parental factor plays a significant role in the young driver’s safety, especially in the first six months of licensure (Yang, 2012). The literature surrounding parental involvement in young drivers’ safety contains several key themes: the importance of clear communications, rules and expectations, and modeling appropriate behavior.

Parents who are more engaged in their teens learning how to drive, have safer teens (CHOP, 2009) Parents who set, monitor, and enforce safe driving practices will have teens who are less likely to violate the law and crash. Involved parents who set high expectations and nurture their teens through the process have safer kids- less likely to crash then uninvolved or flexible parents. This app provides the guidelines, resources and knowledge parents need to be involved and informed parents, whereby making their teens safer on our roadways. Parents are literally the key to safer driving in teenagers; we need to leverage this aspect better to save lives.

Our main objective for the app is to increase compliance on graduated driver’s licensing laws, by targeting and educating parents. The app will review and quiz parents on the graduated licensing laws in their state and have a customizable driving agreement to set limitations and expectations from the start. AutoCoach tracks your drives to ensure you are completing all of the mandated behind the wheel time mandated by your state. The ten chapter curriculum walks the parents through each step of driver training, while the skills section ensures their teen has mastered everything needed to stay safe on the road. Lastly, we have distraction notifications at the top of the phone while the app is in drive: this is to remind parents of the stakes involved and to stay focused throughout! The app is free to download and is available on the Google Play and Apple stores.

AutoCoach 2.0 will launch summer of 2018 and will incorporate cognitive and physical disabilities into the curriculum.

Written by Emma Harrington, Director of Injury Prevention, Shepherd Center