Police text parents when teens pulled over

News Photo by Julie Riddle Teen driver Sarah Campbell, 17, poses by her car Tuesday near Starlite Beach. A newly updated program allows parents to be notified electronically if their teen drivers are pulled over by police.

HARRISVILLE — The digital age has given parents of teens one more way to keep tabs on their sons and daughters who control the car keys.

Updating an established parental supervision program, the Michigan Sheriff’s Association has gone digital with the STOPPED program — Sheriffs Telling Our Parents and Promoting Educated Drivers. Enrolled parents are notified by text or email if their teen is pulled over by a participating law enforcement agency.

For the past 14 years, the STOPPED program has notified enrolled parents by regular mail, a process that was too slow and cumbersome to make the program appealing, according to Alcona County Sheriff Scott Stephenson.

Stephenson’s office, which this week announced it had fully transitioned to the digital update of the free program, is equipped to provide the notifications via the laptops in their patrol cars. The new digital format will, Stephenson hopes, encourage parents to enroll.

In an effort to show support for the program, Stephenson has ordered stickers for the cars of his own kids, and encourages his deputies who have teen drivers at home to do the same.

Parents may register any vehicle — car, boat, off-road vehicle, moped, motorcycle — that will be operated by a driver younger than 21.

If the vehicle is pulled over, a notification is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle, indicating the time and location of the stop, the driver’s name, number of passengers in the vehicle, the reason for the stop, and whether or not any citations were issued.

Good communication between parents, teenage drivers, and the police is valuable, Stephenson said.

“As a parent, I’ve always been pretty interested in where and what my kids are up to, especially in the evenings,” the sheriff said. “And if their driving is not so good, I’d like to know that, too.”

Sheriff Joe Brewbaker of the Presque Isle County Sheriff’s Office said that his office has been involved in the program in the past, but residents didn’t show much interest. With the transition to digital notifications and enrollment, he will consider trying again to make STOPPED available in the county.

In Alpena County, likewise, Sheriff Steve Kieliszewski said area agencies haven’t shown much interest in the past, but he has looked at the program again and is hoping to move forward with adding it to his department’s offerings.

Alpena teen Sarah Campbell, 17, has been pulled over once since getting her license at 16.

The STOPPED program, she said, isn’t a bad idea, but she wishes the parental notifications could be delayed until the next day, giving teens a chance to talk to their parents first.

“I feel like I’d rather tell them, then have them get a text,” Campbell said, remembering her parent’s understanding reaction the time she was pulled over.

“I didn’t get a ticket, so it wasn’t that big of a deal,” Campbell said. “Maybe if I’d got a ticket it would be different.”

To enroll in the program, parents may visit misheriff.org or stop by the Alcona County Sheriff’s Office to pick up an enrollment form.

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, jriddle@thealpenanews.com or on Twitter @jriddleX.