• An iPhone App for Parents of Teen Drivers

    Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States. One of the reasons: teens often don't get enough driving practice, especially in situations such as darkness, bad weather, heavy traffic, interstates, and curvy rural roads.

    A critically important piece of the driver's licensing process is the learner stage. During this period new drivers are required to spend 6-12 months and a certain number of hours practicing under the supervision of an adult.

    To assist in this process, researchers at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, in collaboration with Sky Highways, developed the Time to Drive iPhone App to support supervisors of teen drivers during the practice period.

    Time to Drive will:
    • Record amount of driving and conditions
      (and generates a log which you can provide to the DMV)
    • Keep track of hard stops
    • Provide tips for parents
    • Encourage the parent-teen team to meet driving goals
    • Show a map of past trips

    Time to Drive will help you make sure your teen gets lots of practice, so he or she can become a safe driver.

    About Us

    In 2006 the UNC Highway Safety Research Center established the Center for the Study of Young Drivers (CSYD) with the goal of improving young driver safety. The Center also develops programs and policies to reduce crashes and deaths by studying the factors that contribute to the high crash rate.








  • Frequently Asked Questions

    What are the minimum device requirements for the Time to Drive App?

    The Time to Drive App is designed for use on all iPhone models running iOS version 5.0 or later. It is possible to use the App on iTouch and iPad devices (running iOS version 5.0 and later), but not all features of the App will be available. The App requires location support (GPS) for the mapping feature to work but users can still log trip duration and conditions using non-GPS enabled devices.

    How do I get the Time to Drive App?

    Time to Drive is currently unavailable.

    Can I do other things on my phone while the App is running?

    Yes, but some features of the App (such as mapping and hard stops) will not work while you do other things with your phone. However, it's important to keep your attention focused on your teen and the driving situation at all times. We strongly discourage talking, texting, web browsing, or doing other activities while supervising your teen.

    I forgot to log one of my teen driver's trips. What should I do?

    You can add a missed trip by tapping "Previous Trips" on the home screen. Choose "Add Missed Trip" and enter the information for the missed trip.

    How can I see and print a copy of my teen's driving log?

    You can see your teen's driving log on the phone by tapping "Trip Dashboard" then "View Previous." To have the driving log emailed to you tap "Settings" then "Email Log."

    Can two phones use the App for the same teen?

    Yes, use the same user name and password on both phones.

    How can I change my personal information or review the terms of use?

    Tap "Settings" then "Acct Details."

  • Frequently Asked Questions

    The App is too sensitive (or not sensitive enough) to my teen's hard stops. What should I do?

    For the hard stop meter to work correctly, the phone should be placed upright, with the screen facing the rear of the vehicle. You can also adjust the sensitivity by tapping "Settings" and dragging the circular button left or right. To hear alerts while driving, make sure the audio is set to "On."

    How do I stop the App from buzzing when my teen is driving?

    The App's hard stop alert can be turned off. On the bottom of the home screen, tap "Settings" and then switch the "Hard Stop Alert Sound" to "Off."

    Why I am seeing a "trip not valid" message?

    To count as a trip, the vehicle must travel at least one half mile and be in motion for at least two minutes.

    Why did the App stop while I was getting gas (in a drive-thru, in a traffic jam, etc.)?

    If your vehicle is stopped for two minutes, the App will ask you if you are still supervising your teen. If you do not respond it will stop recording the trip.

    I emailed my teen's log to myself, but its missing information. What should I do?

    The "Basic Log" file uses your account information to complete certain parts of the log. If there are missing items in your log, you may need to add this information to your Account Details. From the homescreen, tap "Settings" then "Acct Details." Once you are done filling in the missing information, re-send the log to yourself and the problem should be fixed.

    I am having difficulty using the Time to Drive App. How can I get help?

    Technical questions about the App can be sent to info@timetodriveapp.com. If you want more information about how to supervise your teen's driving, tap the "Tips" button on the home page.

  • Frequently Asked Questions

    How will this App help me and my teen driver?

    Time to Drive can help you in several ways as you supervise your teen's driving:
    • Record amount of driving and conditions (and generates a log which you can provide to the DMV)
    • Keep track of hard stops
    • Provide tips for parents
    • Encourage the parent-teen team to meet driving goals
    • Show a map of past trips

    Won't the cell phone be a distraction in the car?

    The Time to Drive App should be used only by the supervising passenger (parent or other adult). The App will be running during the trip, but the phone should be placed in a location that is not distracting to the driver or supervisor.

    Are the App's driving goals the same as my state's?

    The App's driving goals differ from state licensing requirements. Many states do not require enough hours for teens to get the experience they need to be safe drivers. Most do not emphasize the need for plenty of experience in different conditions.

    Based on the recommendations of teen driver experts, this App sets a goal of 90 hours for total supervised driving time. That may seem like a lot of driving – and it is – but it takes lots of experience in a wide range of settings to become a safe driver. Other goals include 18 hours of night-time driving, 10 trips in bad weather, 20 trips on interstate highways, 25 trips on rural roads, and 20 trips in heavy traffic.

    What are the driving requirements for new teen drivers in my state?

    You can find information about the requirements in your state by visiting http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/license_laws.html.

    Why do you charge for the Time to Drive App?

    When you buy this App, you help support research to prevent crashes and deaths involving young drivers.

  • Frequently Asked Questions

    Who is conducting this study?

    The study is being conducted by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center.

    What is the purpose of the study?

    There is very little data on how much practice teens get during the supervised learner stage. The Time To Drive App offers a convenient alternative to traditional data collection methods, such as paper logbooks, because the App automatically collects this information. This can be a valuable tool for researchers who are interested in improving the safety of teen drivers.

    How will my privacy be protected?

    The data collected in this study will be confidential, and will not include participant names, phone numbers or email addresses. The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center will not share the data with any third parties.

    Can I still use the App if I don't want to participate?

    Yes, you can still use all of the App's features even if you decide not to participate in the study.

    How do I contact the research team?

    If you have any questions or concerns you may contact the research team by completing the online contact form on the Time To Drive website.



  • Tips for Parents

    Just starting out

    In the beginning the goal is for your teen to get comfortable handling the car in simple driving conditions. Drive in places without much traffic – like parking lots or neighborhood streets – and in easy driving conditions (good weather, daytime).

    Keep in mind that driving takes lots of concentration for a beginner so this is a good time to limit distractions like other passengers or music.

    Recommended driving conditions:
    • Light traffic
    • Daylight
    • Good weather
    • Simple roads (avoid confusing intersections, freeway entrances, roundabouts)

    Remember your teen has many months to gain experience. It's important to get lots of experience in easy driving conditions before driving in more difficult conditions.

    You will earn a bronze medal when your teen has completed 15 hours of driving.

  • Tips for Parents

    My teen has been driving for at least 15 hours.

    By now your teen can probably handle the vehicle pretty well and is comfortable driving in the easy situations you've been practicing. Now it is time to begin driving in situations that are a bit more difficult.

    Recommended driving conditions:
    • Heavier traffic
    • Moderately bad weather (light rain, fog, etc.)
    • Interstate driving
    • Rural roads
    • Nighttime driving (as long as it's not raining)

    Remember you have many months, so there's no need to rush. You should try to introduce these conditions slowly and one at a time.

    The more experience teens have with many different driving conditions, the more prepared they will be to handle all possible driving conditions when driving without a parent.

    You will earn a silver medal for total time when your teen has completed 45 hours of driving. You are also working towards medals in the recommended driving conditions.

  • Tips for Parents

    My teen has been driving for at least 45 hours.

    By now your teen has done a lot of driving, but there is still a lot to learn. You are the best judge of their ability, but by now they are probably ready to experience and learn from complex driving conditions.

    Recommended driving conditions:
    • Heavy, high speed traffic on any type of road
    • Bad weather conditions (heavy rain, ice, snow, strong winds, dust storms, etc.)
    • Nighttime driving in all conditions

    It's important your teen gets lots of practice in all kinds of driving conditions. This may mean making special trips to drive in bad weather, heavy city traffic, two-lane country roads, or on interstates.

    The more experience teens have with many different driving conditions, including unusual events that often cause collisions, the more prepared they will be to handle all possible driving conditions when you are no longer riding with them.

    You will earn a gold medal when your teen has completed 90 hours of driving.

    You are also working towards medals in the recommended driving conditions.

  • Tips for Parents

    About Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL)

    Beginning drivers learn mostly by doing, so the more they drive and the more varied conditions they experience, the quicker they will learn. GDL is the licensing approach that all states now use to encourage young beginners to get this experience. The added benefit is that GDL arranges the licensing process so this experience is gained in the safest driving conditions possible.

    The first step in all licensing systems is the learner period, which lasts from 6 to 12 months, depending on the state you live in. During this time, teens are only allowed to drive with an adult supervisor. By doing so for many hours, under many different conditions, teens are able to learn without much risk of a crash because the adult is there to help.

    After teens have finished the required period of supervised driving, they can obtain a license that allows them to drive without adult supervision (the so-called intermediate, or provisional, license period). However, driving at night or with young passengers is limited during this time. These limits are meant to keep driving as safe as possible during the period when crash risk is especially high. New drivers still have a lot to learn and it's best if they do that without the added risk of distractions and darkness. A number of states also have restrictions on cell phone use during this period.

    Know your state's requirements and restrictions for new drivers so your teen takes full advantage of this relatively new and much safer way of driver licensing. You can find your state's regulations at http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/license_laws.html.

  • Tips for Parents

    My teen is nervous about learning to drive.

    Some teens are nervous about driving. To help your teen feel more comfortable, start with simple, safe locations such as an empty parking lot, a deserted city street on Sunday morning, or a country road with no traffic. Move to other situations slowly. Practice is the only way your teen will become more comfortable behind the wheel. It is okay to wait if your teen doesn't feel ready to start driving, but it should be understood by everyone that delaying the start of supervised driving will delay the teen from earning a license.

    My teen has lost interest in driving.

    Some parents say their teens lose interest in driving after a few weeks or months, when "the novelty wears off." Working driving into a regular routine will help prevent this. Although an occasional break is okay, long periods of no driving mean the teen is missing valuable experience. Resist the temptation to drive yourself. It may seem easier sometimes, but your teen will never get better without driving regularly.

    It's hard to talk to my teen about driving.

    Teens are often very sensitive when they are beginning to drive. Despite your best efforts, you can expect to hear comments like, "Stop yelling at me!" These reactions are usually about how your teen is feeling rather than what you are doing.

    Be sure to tell them when they do something well. It's easy to point out mistakes, and there will be plenty of them, but humans learn much better when they are rewarded for doing well rather than being told what they did wrong. Be sure to tell your teen where you see improvement with his or her driving. And try not to point out mistakes unless they are serious.

    Share your wisdom by helping your teen learn to spot hidden dangers, anticipate what other drivers may do, make good judgments, and see the "big picture."

    Use "I" statements. Teens are more likely to listen to and remember "I" statements. For example: "I always try to look two or three cars ahead to see if traffic may be slowing down."

  • Tips for Parents

    My teen is too busy to practice driving.

    It is important to make sure your teen gets as much experience as possible before "going solo." Try to develop a routine where your teen drives nearly every day. When driving someplace new, let your teen be the driver. Parents and teens are busier than ever, so it can be hard to find time to practice, but parents and experts agree – practice is important!

    How do I know when my teen is ready to get a license?

    Both you and your teen determine when it's time to take the step to unsupervised driving. If either of you doesn't feel ready, more experience is needed. The teen's safety is more important than either the teen's desire to get a license or the parent's wish for him or her to have one.

    How do I choose the right car for my teen?

    Consider safety when deciding what your teen will drive, whether you are sharing a family car or buying one for you teen. Given the high crash rates of teen drivers, it is important for your teen to drive the safest vehicle possible. That may be the newest vehicle in the family. The best car for a teen is one with front and side airbags, electronic stability control, other modern safety features and one with moderate power. Pickup trucks and SUVs are dangerous for beginning drivers; they are more likely to rollover in a crash and are built to lower safety standards than regular cars. You can find vehicle safety ratings at www.safercar.gov or www.iihs.org/ratings.

    Not all cars are the same. They handle differently, controls are in different places and blind spots vary. It is important for your teen to practice in the vehicle that he or she will be driving once licensed. If you get a new vehicle for your teen, be sure to continue driving together until your teen is familiar and comfortable with the new vehicle.

  • Contact Information

    Technical support for the App:

    If you need technical support and/or have any comments or ideas for enhancements to the App please contact:

    Sky Highways, Inc.
    108 East Main Street
    Chapel Hill, NC 27510


    Want to ask us a question?

    If you have questions for the UNC HSRC researchers in the Center for the Study of Young Drivers, please fill out the contact form below.