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UNC safety researchers are the winners of the first Carolina Apps Competition.

The contest was co-sponsored by the office of the UNC Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovate@Carolina.

Each year in the United States, about 6,000 teens between the ages of 15 and 20 die in motor vehicle crashes.

But researchers from the Highway Safety Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are working on a smartphone app to tackle the problem. A Highway Safety Research Center team will develop a mobile app that will get critical safety information into the hands of parents and teens as they begin the graduated driver licensing process.

For years, the center has designed programs that reduce young driver crashes and the resulting injuries and fatalities. Its initiatives include graduated driver licensing systems, a concept developed and championed by the center, which have been adopted in North Carolina and many other states. The systems are designed to give young drivers substantial practice under safe conditions.

Barbara Entwisle, vice chancellor for research, said projects that turn research into useful products for the public are exactly what her office wants to support.

“We want to encourage Carolina faculty, staff and students to think creatively about ways their research can benefit the real world,” Entwisle said. “The Highway Safety Research Center’s findings will inform and improve the teen driving experience through an easily accessible and engaging mobile app. It’s exciting to see Carolina-born ideas move out into the community.”

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Published December 13, 2011.