GLASTONBURY, Conn. (AP) – Wendy Burnham needed help driving her two children to and from basketball, choir, football and softball practice, swim meets, piano lessons and Girl Scout meetings.

Carpooling was the common solution, with parents calling each other in search of rides, she said.

That was before Burnham, the mother of an 11-year-old girl and a 9-year-old son, met Bryn Tindall at their sons’ football practice. Tindall, who lives in Glastonbury, founded an Internet Web site last fall that organizes car pools for harried mothers and fathers.

Burnham, also a Glastonbury resident, has come to rely on the Web site www.dividetheride.com to not only find car pool partners, but also to organize her children’s after-school commitments.

“This is just less of a hassle to get them places,” she said.

The Web site, which was established last fall, has established a network that previously worked by telephone. It claims 13,000 registered users, with California, Connecticut, Florida among the top states.

“People start calling each other, sometimes in a panic,” Tindall said. “‘Can you pick up my kid? I’ll do you next time.’ I watched the pattern, 15 cars coming in. What if we did this proactively?”

For Tindall, setting up the Web site was a logical step. The father of two boys, ages 8 and 4, is the oldest son in a family of 12 kids. “That means I was the first driver,” he said.

And because Tindall, 38, also founded his own marketing company, the idea of a carpooling Web site is “actually quite old,” he said.

“These kinds of things, you put them in the back of your head, they start to gel,” Tindall said.

Using the Web site allows parents to send text messages and e-mails to cancel or make other changes to promised rides or remind parents of their commitments. And parents can use the site’s spreadsheet calendar to schedule a cascade of events.

Tindall’s older son is involved in activities six days a week and even his 4-year-old is already playing soccer and participates in swimming activities.

“It’s a very, very competitive world,” Tindall said. “I’ve got to get them in it.”

The Web site also gives users access to maps showing where families in a car pool group live and their proximity to a school, athletic field or other sites where activities are scheduled.

Security was the immediate concern in setting up a Web site that details children’s activities.

“Believe me, we talked about that a lot,” said Bill Harper, chief technology officer of Tindall’s marketing company who helped design security for the site. “It had to be locked down tight.”

Parents who join the Web site are assured that access is available only to other parents who are invited by someone they know. Information is password-protected and car pool leaders who enter details about events do not have access to others’ information, he said.

“Somebody would have to go through such incredible lengths to find out where your child is at 5 o’clock, it just boggles the mind,” Harper said.

Nancy McBride, national safety director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, would not comment specifically about the Web site, but questioned why an Internet site keeps information about children, their activities and their whereabouts.

“Nobody should collect data on a child and keep it in a database except the parent or guardian,” she said. “We can all say a Web site can’t be hacked into, but we know it happens. Sexual predators look for access and opportunity so the parent has to be diligent.”

Steven Schoeffler, founder of eRideShare.com, a Web-based car pool for adults who share rides to work, said security and safety issues are legitimate, but problems are rare or even nonexistent.

“Everyone is concerned about stranger danger,” he said. “I don’t think the Internet is an additional risk. I would emphasize the safety of it rather than the non-safety of it.”

Meanwhile, Burnham who credits the carpooling to reducing 12 car trips a week to two or three, said media reports and word-of-mouth are driving dividetheride.com.

“It was moms I know with sons who are friends of my son,” she said. “It wasn’t really a hardship to pick up other kids. It makes sense.”



On the Web: www.dividetheride.com

AP-ES-04-05-08 1505EDT


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