U Start-Up Builds App for Safer Teen Driving

The DriveScribe mobile application blocks incoming calls, e-mails, and text messages while a vehicle is in operation; provides voice commands; and calculates a "safe driving score" after each trip; among other functions.

Do you ever wish you could monitor your teen's driving habits? Or ensure they're not texting or talking on the phone while behind the wheel? Now there's an app for that.

Drive Power, LLC, launched a mobile application designed to monitor and coach drivers, especially teens. The Minneapolis-based start-up licensed the technology-which was developed by researchers from the University of Minnesota's mechanical engineering department-from the university's Office for Technology Commercialization.

The app, called DriveScribe, provides real-time feedback to the driver; notifies parents instantaneously about traffic violations; and logs driving data online for later review. It also blocks incoming calls, e-mails, and text messages while the vehicle is in operation; a personalized message is sent to those who are attempting to reach the driver. Many of the functions can be disabled; for example, the voice commands can be turned off if desired.

According to the university, roughly 16.5 million drivers are involved in crashes in the United States every year-and more than 12 percent are younger than 20 years old. That's especially alarming considering that teenagers represent less than 5 percent of drivers.

“We're trying to help teens become better drivers, sooner,” Alec Gorjestani-a researcher who developed the app and who also serves as Drive Power's vice president of technology-said in a statement. “The crash rate for new drivers is very high, especially in the first six months of driving, so we decided to do something about it.”

Drive Power founder and CEO William England said in a statement that the National Transportation Safety Board recently called for a nationwide ban on cell phone use during driving-but he claims that DriveScribe offers a “much more practical, engaging, and ultimately effective solution to combat distracted driving as well as provide assistance to novice drivers.”