Media Coverage

The Orange County Register - Stopping teens from texting and driving

02/07/2011 - By ELIZABETH ESTHER
MOM. TECHNICALLY.
FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Like many life-saving technologies, this one began with a tragedy. Todd Follmer’s teenage son was driving too fast in Coto De Caza when his girlfriend, also speeding in the car behind him, swerved off the road and slammed into a tree. The teen girl died as a result of her injuries. In the years since the accident, Todd has made safe driving a priority at his company, Inthinc. And now, Inthinc has a parent-friendly on-board computer called“tiwiFamily” that can be installed in a teen’s car. The device provides verbal coaching, speeding warnings, GPS tracking and can even prevent texting while driving by triggering the teen’s mobile phone to go into safe mode when the car is moving.

When I spoke with Todd Follmer, CEO of Inthinc, he explained that this technology “is important for parents because when teens drive, parents aren’t there to give directions.” tiwiFamily acts as part surrogate driving coach, part mentor and, according to their site, part guardian angel. It’s the kind of coaching and accountability that is vital for inexperienced drivers.
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Courtesy Inthinc.
Mom. Technically. is a weekly column by Elizabeth Esther about her relationship with the tech world. Elizabeth is a local freelance writer and married mother of five.
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If, for example, parents are worried about speeding, they can rest assured knowing Inthinc has a proprietary database that knows all the speed limits of every street across the country. If a teen goes over the speed limit, the tiwiFamily device will issue a verbal warning to reduce speed and give a 15 second grace period for the teen to do so before sending an alert to the parents. Parents can also create customized geographic boundaries through an Internet portal and access reports on where their teen drove, when they arrived and their general driving behavior. This web-based dashboard lets parents know where their teen is at all times.

One of the most dangerous aspects of teenage driving is distracted driving. Follmer informed me that studies on safe driving showed that driving while texting is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. It’s a sobering reality that is happily mitigated by the tiwiFamily’s ability to disable a teen’s phone or place it on safe mode while the car is moving. If someone calls or texts your teen while he/she is driving, the caller will be notified that your teen is on the road and can’t respond immediately. The best part is that your teen won’t even hear the distracting ring/text alert from their phone.

And if parents are concerned about their teen having access to telephone communication while driving, the tiwiFamily has an e-call feature that allows parents to call directly to the in-car unit and speak with their teen. Parents can program numbers into the device and if a teen ever gets into trouble, emergency services can be summoned by a quick push of the button.
Although teens might object to parents knowing every detail of their driving behavior, the statistics on teen-related car accidents are frightening. The tiwiFamily can provide indispensable peace of mind to parents of beginning drivers. In fact, it just might save their lives.

Mom. Technically. is a weekly column by Elizabeth Esther about her relationship with the tech world. Elizabeth is a local freelance writer and married mother of five.

More family and parenting: Visit OC Moms for deals, events, features, contests, and news & information just for you. Find OC Moms on Facebook and follow us on Twitter@themomblog. You can also sign up for the weekly OC Moms newsletter.

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/stop-287242-teen-texting.html