WTOL 11 Investigates: How to keep your teen from texting behind the wheel

How to keep your teen from texting behind the wheel

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - It's prom season and summer is right around the corner. Your teens may be spending more time behind the wheel than ever. But, they're likely doing something else which could cost them their life at the same time.

Patrick Merrill, of Cleveland, was killed in 2009 by a public bus driver who was on the cell phone.

"It was very gruesome. He was busted up really bad, swelled up. It was heartbreaking," said Patrick's brother, Tim Merrill. "He was inside the walkway. He made it about three quarters of the way across. She came around the corner and just run right over him. Never seen him. Why did he have to die because of a silly mistake, a split decision, looking down at a phone instead of a road?"

Since Merrill's death in 2009, distracted driving has become more deadly.

According to The Ohio State Highway Patrol, nearly 18,000 accidents involved distracted driving in Ohio in 2014. The patrol says 44 of those were fatal crashes.

Distracted driving is now the number one killer of young people age eight to 24.

AAA recently released a new study showing distraction is a factor in 58 percent of all teen driver crashes.

Along with the study, AAA released video showing dozens of teens involved in accidents or near accidents as they talked to friends, adjusted the radio or talked on the phone.

Law enforcement says conversations with your teens and using apps can help keep them aware of the risks are the best way to combat the problem.

"If you can, add that next layer of technology in to further remind them of that importance," said OHSP Staff Lt. John Altman.

WTOL 11 investigated, putting two of the most popular apps to the test with help from two families.

Connor Bringman and Tristan Roth and their parents downloaded the apps 'Canary' and 'Mama Bear.'

'Canary' alerts parents when their teens are texting and talking while driving. 'Mama Bear' signals parents when teens are speeding.

Connor and Tristan got in their cars at the Owens Community College closed track and immediately start texting and talking on the phone.

'Canary' alerted Connor's dad right away.

But then the alerts stop and Tristan's mom has only received one.

WTOL 11 contacted the company, which said some areas are spotty.

Connor's dad confirms he receives all the alerts later.

Connor then begins speeding on Wales Road, and a 'Mama Bear' speed alert popped up.

"I just think it's a good start," said Connor. "Getting in the kids' minds that there's always somebody watching."

"I wouldn't even test the boundaries if this was put into place," said Tristan.

"I'd give Canary a 'B.' I think it does a nice job of alerting you as your child is doing different things. I think some of the drawbacks were some of the alerts seem to be delayed," said Connor's father, Chad.

"It would be a D or an F. It would be a wonderful app if it did work and maybe I'll get notifications later. Maybe we're just in a bad spot. But I think it's a great tool," said Kori, Tristan's mother.

Click here to sign the WTOL 11 pledge that you will not text behind the wheel.

Read the latest proposed legislation out of Columbus aimed at distracted driving here.

Copyright 2015 Toledo News Now. All rights reserved.