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AutoCoach App Tackles Distracted Driving with Various Features

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

As part of Shepherd Center’s efforts to curtail distracted driving, its Injury Prevention Program has incorporated distracted driving components into AutoCoach, the first mobile app developed by certified driver rehabilitation specialists for parents to teach their teens to drive safely.

The target population of AutoCoach is two-fold – parents and their young drivers.

“Studies show that one of the most protective factors against teenage injuries and fatalities due to car crashes are parents who model, monitor and enforce safe driving practices,” says Emma Harrington, director of injury prevention and education for Shepherd Center. “But rarely are parents and guardians trained in how to teach their teen to safely operate and maintain an automobile. With AutoCoach, we aim to fix that.”

One way AutoCoach aims to reduce distracted driving is to remind parents and teens to put the phone down before starting a drive. While the teen is driving, AutoCoach is designed to be in the hands of the parent in the passenger seat. When parents turn on the app and start a drive, there is a neon reminder at the top of the screen reminding them to safeguard their most important asset – their child – by putting the phone aside and paying attention.

“We want to affect behavior change in both the parent and teen population,” Harrington says. “AutoCoach is geared toward parents of teen drivers, and it aims to help them model appropriate driving behaviors, such as not texting while driving, during the driver training stage with their teens.”

AutoCoach also aims to help parents brush up on their knowledge of laws in place to keep their young drivers safe. Before a parent and teen can start logging their drives in AutoCoach, the parent must complete a six-question quiz on graduated drivers licensing laws (GDLs). This reminds the parent and teen that there are laws meant to keep their teen safe on the road. One common GDL meant to curb distracted driving is to limit the number of drivers in a new driver’s car. Young drivers are often distracted by their friends, so limiting the number of passengers in young drivers’ cars helps reduce the risk of a distraction-related accident.

“Once parents are educated on the laws in place to curb risky behaviors such as distracted driving, they too can help enforce them with their teen,” Harrington says. “We hope parents see AutoCoach as a partner in keeping their child safe.”

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.