UW-W student, grad create notification service for parents of teen drivers

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Andrea Anderson
Saturday, October 26, 2013

Parents could have a new tool to monitor their teenagers' driving as early as next week thanks to a UW-Whitewater student and a graduate.

Christian Pedretti, a UW-Whitewater senior, and Jordan Leahy, a 2011 UW-Whitewater graduate, co-founded Teen Grasshopper in spring 2013.

Teen Grasshopper allows other drivers to contact the parents of a teen driver by dialing a toll-free number and entering a pin number listed on a car decal that says "How's my driving?"

Pedretti said the idea builds off of an available resource-–other drivers.

“Why not have the eyes that are already on the road look after young and inexperienced drivers?” Pedretti said. “We wanted to forgo the middle man, meaning the call centers.”

The phone number and pin displayed on the sticker link to up to three phone numbers provided by the parent or guardian. Drivers then speak with an adult about what they are witnessing. If there is no answer, the driver can leave a voicemail that will be sent to an email of the parent or guardian.

In 2012, traffic accidents in the state killed 63 teenagers and injured 5,478 teens, according to Wisconsin Department of Transportation data.

Pedretti lost a friend to a car accident in summer 2012 and said it motivated him to start a business that could decrease the number of teen accidents and fatalities on the road.

“If we can even save one teen driver, that would be a success in our eyes,” Pedretti said.

The company is donating 50 two-year Teen Grasshopper contracts in honor of the company's intended launch next week and National Teen Driver Safety Week, which  ends Oct. 26.

Since August, Pedretti and Leahy had 160 customers test the product in New York City, where Leahy lives, to see the service's effectiveness.

They had an average of three calls per driver in September and positive feedback from parents, the co-founders said.

“So far, it has been positive feedback,” Leahy said. “Once they receive the call, they see there is more value about having other drivers notify them. It gives them peace of mind.”

Scott Bretl, founder of just drive, a Wisconsin driver education program and exclusive partner of Teen Grasshopper, is assisting with the launch and advertising to his clients.

Bretl said the notification service has value because drivers talk directly to parents and teens know they are being watched. 

“What this does is let the teen know they are being noticed,” Bretl said. “Parents might not be around, but someone else might be watching.”

Pedretti and Leahy's short-term goal is to be successful in Wisconsin and spread the business to Minnesota. They hope their business is eventually a household name.

“Within the next five years, we want 200,000 drivers to have this,” Leahy said. “We want to make this accessible for everyone and be a household name.”

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