Adolescents/Teens

  Population considerations

  • Lack of experience. New adolescent drivers lack the driving experience and skills needed to avoid crashes (Marin, 2005). Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize hazardous situations (Jonah, 1987).
  • Negative peer influence. Adolescents often exhibit risky driving behaviors because they feel pressure from peers (Cohen, 2003). Such behaviors include speeding, street racing and other actions that contribute to motor vehicle crashes (Knight, 2004). Adolescents often do not wear seat belts (Glassbrenner, 2003). This may be because they want to impress their peers or do not see the risks in not wearing them (Boyle, 2003). 
  • Use of vehicles during social time. Crash rates are especially high for adolescents during weekends and night, when adolescents tend to socialize with their peers (IIHS, 2006). Rates are also higher when other adolescents are passengers (Preusser, 1998). Adolescents may be easily distracted by other adolescent passengers, cell phones and the radio (Marin, 2005). 
  • Underage drinking. Younger drivers constitute a large percentage of alcohol-related fatal car accidents. These type of accidents are one of the leading causes of death among adolescents (Jaccard, 1999)

  Strategies to address these considerations

  • Improve adolescent driving regulations. Graduated driver licensing (GDL) has been used in some states as a method to reduce crash rates in adolescent drivers (McCartt, 2004). The GDL program gradually introduces adolescents to risky driving situations with strategies such as driving curfews, passenger limits and stricter penalties for violations. GDL programs have also set up strong safety belt laws with highly publicized efforts to enforce them among adolescents.  Some states have banned the use of cell phones while driving (Marin, 2005). Efforts to end street racing have included the addition of specific laws, tougher fines and penalties for racing (Knight, 2004). 
  • Address risky behaviors. Use education and campaign strategies to address peer pressure and risky driving behaviors. Risky behaviors may include drinking and driving, seat belt use, cell phone use and speeding in hazardous conditions.  It is useful to consider working with adolescents, driving education courses, schools, parents, police and various political leaders in creating these interventions (Marin, 2005).
  • Promote alternative activities. Provide activities during weekends and nights to discourage teens from driving as a social activity. Efforts to end street racing have included the promotion of raceways as another option to urban streets. 
  • Involve health care providers. Health care providers can help increase seat belt use by offering advice and information.  Questions on seat belt use can be built into the individual’s medical history.
  • Enhance skills. It may be useful provide skill building activities for adolescents. Activities might address driving skills or peer negotiation skills.
  • Involve parents. It may be useful to involve parents when addressing adolescent driving. Intervention strategies can include educating parents about adolescent driving risks and building skills for negotiating driving privileges.

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