TIWI technology helping parents monitor teen driving

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by SHELLY SLATER / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on February 25, 2010 at 6:26 PM

It's a freedom teenagers love and most parents dread. But now when teens learn to drive, there's a way a parent can put themselves in the back seat - electronically.

Six months - that's how long 16-year-old Christin Urso's been behind a wheel. But not once has she truly been alone. TIWI is watching - a device controlled by her parents.

"It's right there in front of you. It's not something easy to ignore," she said.

TIWI sends her dad a text every time she speeds 10 miles over the limit, doesn't wear a seat belt, drives aggressively, or leaves city parameters set by the parents.

"It does take away some of the freedom you're suppose to have when you get a car," said Christin.

"She was in disbelief, she felt like I was spying on her," said Joe Urso, Christin's dad. "We had a little bit of an argument you might say."

 Joe says the device is as much for his daughter as himself. Every time she does something wrong, the device alerts her vocally.

"It will keep doing it if you keep speeding, but I'm going to slow down now," said Christin.

All the data from Christin's driving is held in an online database parents can check. That way they can tell if her driving score is improving or not. And so far, Christin is getting better, meaning her dad doesn't call her out on every text that comes through.

"Because it appears that she pulls herself back together, I let it go most of the time," said Joe.

TIWI team members, like Jeff Harvey, say the device is a great way for teenagers to have an excuse to follow the law, helping avoid peer pressure.

"They are invincible because they don't know any better," said Harvey. "We lose 6,000 teenagers every year in car crashes. They are the number one killer of teens."

"Even when you're driving and you think you're paying attention, it will say something and you realize, wow, I really wasn't paying attention," said Christin.

The next step for this group is to make sure TIWI can determine when your child is texting and driving.
And while that feature may be a year away, Joe Urso says this is a step in the right direction when it comes to safety and driver accountability.

"This is not a measure of distrust. It's a measure of being smart and guarded as you can be with the most valuable thing in your life," said Joe.

The TIWI device costs $300, then $40 a month, which includes roadside assistance.

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