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UNC’s “Time to Drive” phone app, like, way maxes teenagers’ drivers education

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“There’s an app for that.”

Yo, that line has gotten so stale it’s like all 2011, yo.

OK, that’s enough of my bad imitation of teenager-speak. But there is a new smartphone application aimed at teenagers that’s just out, and it looks pretty good.

“Time to Drive” helps parents ensure their beginning driver gets enough of the right kind of driving practice during the lengthy stage of supervised driving (12 months in North Carolina).

The key words are “the right kind.” For example, in North Carolina, the learner stage can begin at age 15 and lasts 12 months. (Kids can begin driver’s education as early as age 14 ½.) The first learner stage requires 60 hours of supervised driving, with 10 of those being done at night. The intermediate stage can begin at age 16 and requires 12 hours of supervised driving, 6 of those at night.

Sounds pretty rigorous on the surface, but the requirements are really just how many hours and how much at night. The app takes the training several more steps, and in the right direction.

“Time to Drive” was developed by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC) and the Center for the Study of Young Drivers. According to a news release, it’s the first research-based iPhone app to help parents and teens with driving practice.

Yes, iPhone – so that’s likely a limitation for the majority of you.

The "Time to Drive" app greatly enhances

strategies for teen driver training and adds

detailed record-keeping for official submission.

But if you use a different smartphone, don’t stop reading. The “Time to Drive” website provides a lot of good tips and strategies you can use without downloading the Apple application or buying a thing. (FYI: All proceeds from the app go toward maintaining the app and supporting research by the Center for the Study of Young Drivers. Price: $3.99 – a little cheaper than I expected.)

First off, “Time to Drive” takes the position that 60 hours is not enough “time to drive.” Based on recommendations from experts on teenage driving, the app sets a goal of 90 hours of supervised driving.

The program progresses in increments of time and difficulty: What to do when the teenager just starting out; after 15 hours of experience; and after 45 hours on the road.

The app keeps performance records for you, including maps of all your trips, and things like the number of “hard stops” – times when a driver doesn’t hit the brake soon enough and brakes too hard.

Goals are quite specific:

  • 18 hours of night driving
  • 10 trips in bad weather
  • 20 trips on interstate highways
  • 25 trips on rural roads
  • 20 trips in heavy traffic

Many states require a record of supervised experience when a teen driver applies for a provisional license. Time to Drive generates an accurate, printable log of driving time and conditions for you, which you can present to the DMV. (N.C. has one log for the first 12-month, 60-hour period, and a second log for the next training period of 12 hours.)

I would also venture to say that a major intangible advantage of the app is psychological. Driving is serious business, and a learning process this involved reiterates that truth.

In the teenage years, a driver’s hand-eye coordination, eyesight, and reflexes are probably as good as they will ever be. But the advantage of experience will be earned only by time. “Time to Drive” gives a teen an excellent head start.

And like they say, if this’ll save the life of one yute, it’s hundo p swaggy.

(I Googled “latest teenage slang,” so those words are probably, like, so last week already.)