U of M Study Aims to Protect Teen Drivers

Posted at: 01/07/2013 9:43 PM
Updated at: 01/07/2013 10:21 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- Car crashes are the number one cause of teen deaths. That's why the University of Minnesota has come up with a study, that'll track new drivers to find out what their most common mistakes are behind the wheel.

New drivers who participate would get $300 in the end and even a smart phone, but there's a catch. That phone would actually be monitoring their driving for a year. We talked with both MnDOT and a driving instructor who are both on board with the idea.

"Students don't make a lot of mistakes when they're driving in a car with an instructor. When they get out on their own, they’re more prone to distraction," said Mark Prochazka.

He's been a driving instructor at Northgate Driving School in Rochester for 9 years and has passed hundreds of students, knowing once they’re on their own, the rest is up to them.

“That’s why this program will work so well, because I won't be in the car with them," said Prochazka. He's talking about a new U of M study that'll track drivers while they're on the road. "They'll also get a cell phone and what that'll do is it will help monitor their driving patterns," said Kristine Hernandez with MnDOT.

This will help researchers find out what common mistakes are made by new drivers. "Their brains are not fully developed yet. They are more prone to doing high risk behaviors and this will help us determine what those behaviors are," said Hernandez.

"It's a very cool idea," said driving student Logan Peters. Not to mention they get $300 after doing this, but when we asked if he'd join... "I am a little nervous when I'm in a car and feeling like there are a pair of eyes in the back of my head wouldn't help that," said Peters.

Though it may make some a little uncomfortable. It's the results that some say, could be used to save lives. "I'd like to see the results, it'll help me with my teaching," said Prochazka.

"The number one cause of teen deaths is motor vehicle crashes so this again is a great study for parents to be aware and get on board so that we can reduce that number," said Hernandez.

MnDOT would not reveal to us how the monitoring would work, because they didn’t want to skew the results. They are still looking for students to join. To qualify you have to be just getting your license sometime between February and April of this year and you must have your parents' approval.

If interested, you can contact Nichole Morris with the University of Minnesota. Her email is nlmorris@umn.edu, or Janet Creaser at creaser@umn.edu.