Summary of Responses by Group (continued)
Generic Females – Fort Lee, New Jersey, and Seattle, Washington
General Driving Information
The range of behind-the-wheel experience was from six months to two years for these girls.
When asked to rate their driving skills, responses fell into the 6-to-10 range with most responses around 7. A young woman with just six months behind-the-wheel experience rated herself with a 6. Driving responsibility was reported in the 3-to-9 range with most responses around 6.
The Fort Lee female focus groups participants at first indicated that they had no crash involvement, but when asked if they ever hit anything with their car, about half of them indicated that they had run into things like parked cars, poles, and a deer.
In the Seattle focus group, 4 of the 12 participants reported being involved in crashes. One participant had been involved in seven crashes, although not all of them were her fault. All but one of the affinity group participants had been involved in at least one crash with several of them involved in two to four crashes. The crashes generally involved rear-ending the car in front or backing into something in driveways or parking lots.
In Seattle, one girl had her license suspended because she received two speeding tickets while driving under a restricted license. All of the remaining girls reported either receiving a ticket (for speeding usually) or being pulled over but succeeding in talking their way out of it. Being able to talk (or cry) their way out of tickets seemed to be a common skill. Several of the Seattle girls indicated that they were very afraid of getting a ticket because they believed their parents would take their cars. Other Seattle girls indicated that they were driving their parents’ cars and therefore had to be careful because their parents would be very upset if they got a ticket.
Unsafe Driving Behaviors
The items most frequently mentioned by the generic females are generally the same as those identified by the generic males. The girls in Seattle identified tailgating without any prompting from the facilitator. Only three people identified speeding as a dangerous activity, and no one identified street racing – although a few girls in Seattle admitted to street racing. Comments about each behavior that are different from the comments made by the generic males are provided in the paragraphs that follow:
- Driving drunk (or impaired by drugs);
- Eating (with forks);
- Running red lights;
- Talking on cell phones;
- Singing, dancing, and playing with the radio;
- Talking to, arguing with, and wrestling with friends in the car;
- Drowsy driving;
- Street racing;
- Tailgating; and
- Other distractions such as checking on baby in backseat, putting on makeup, talking to people outside the car, and reaching for things in the back seat.
The generic girls generally saw themselves as pretty responsible with regard to drinking and driving. None of the Fort Lee girls reported ever drinking and driving. Two Seattle girls admitted to doing it once, but they were scared to death. Two girls indicated that they have driven when they were a little “buzzed,” but they both felt they were totally in control.
More girls admitted they had ridden with drivers who had been drinking “a little.” The girls expressed total confidence that their friends would not drive and endanger their lives by driving if they were too drunk. More concern was expressed about driving with their parents who had been drinking.
The girls as a group indicated that they felt that they were the responsible people in their groups and frequently played the designated driver role. They have no qualms about taking the keys from one of their friends.
The girls in Fort Lee indicated that marijuana use was probably more of a problem than underage drinking, but that they did not believe that being stoned affected driving as much as being drunk.
Eating (With Forks)
Girls in both cities made a point of talking about eating with forks as being a problem (more than just eating a sandwich). Apparently they frequently try to eat things like pasta that require utensils. This means the driver has to balance a plate in her lap and use a fork, all while trying to steer. They frequently spill food, which causes another distraction. While they all acknowledge that this is a bad idea, they do not anticipate changing their behavior or their menu choices.
Running Red Lights
Focus groups indicated that girls seemed to be more aware of this as a problem, although it was not clear if it is something they do or if they are just concerned because others do it. The one girl who indicated that she had done it attributed it to being distracted by what was going on in the car and not noticing the light.
Talking on Cell Phones
As with the boys, all the girl participants regularly spoke on their cell phones, although they admitted it was hard sometimes to talk, steer, and shift or smoke a cigarette. Only one had a hands-free set, but she never used it.
Singing, Dancing, and Playing With the Radio
Girls, more so than boys, indicate in the focus groups that they get totally caught up in the music. They sing out loud, dance, and spend a lot of time fiddling with the radio and CDs. They like it very loud, and it is a major part of the social aspect of driving with their friends. They also indicate that it is a major source of distraction, which they recognize as a bad thing, since most of the crashes they have had resulted from being distracted and taking their eyes off the road.
Talking to Friends
Girls reported in the focus groups that they do not want anyone to take their friends out of the car. Friends pose the same distractions to girls as they do to boys, but the girl participants mentioned arguing with friends more frequently. One also included wrestling with friends. Girls reported that they were also more opposed to restrictions on the number of kids in the car, although they acknowledged that perhaps new drivers could benefit from some limitations. The 17- and 18-year-old girls reported that their driving had “matured” since they started driving and they could handle any distractions caused by passengers. One girl, however, indicated that while she was a better driver at 17 after she had driven for a while, she thought that a lot of 18-year-old drivers had gotten too comfortable and were not as careful.
In the focus groups, the girls also reasoned that family members were just as much of a distraction as friends, yet it was OK to drive younger siblings around; so the [graduated licensing] “law was a bad idea.”
As with boys, it was difficult to differentiate between exceeding the speed limit by 5 to 10 mph, which the girl participants do not really consider speeding, and driving really fast. The girl participants seemed to be more aware of the various factors that affect how fast they drive. They mentioned that they drive slower at night, partly because it is more dangerous, and partly because it is harder to spot the police. They drive slower on local streets because they worry about hitting someone. “The biggest thing I am afraid of is hitting a pedestrian.”
Driving at high speeds seems to be much more popular in the Seattle area than in Fort Lee (which could be caused by the significant traffic congestion in the area of the Fort Lee focus groups). Several Seattle girls participated in the street-racing scene in Renton, Washington. The Seattle girls also drove at very high speeds (in excess of 100 mph) on the expressways.
One possible difference that can be inferred from the focus groups between the girls and boys with regard to speeding is that girls are more likely to speed when they are alone in the car while boys are more likely to speed when they are with friends. One girl reported that she drives much more slowly when her child is in the car with her, and another reported that she was much more cautious about speed when her younger siblings were with her.
Girl participants reported “being late” as the primary reason for routine speeding. One girl said, “I have a huge problem with speed. I always drive 90 to 100 mph and I don’t get caught. I am always late.” Another Seattle girl reported being pulled over for driving 110 mph during the day, but she talked her way out of a ticket. “I know the right places to speed; I will slow down if I know there is a cop there, but there are lots of places where you never get caught.”
Since a lot of girl participants seemed to be out very late, it is not surprising that they had trouble with drowsy driving. All the girls indicated that they had driven when really sleepy, either driving to school, driving home from school, or driving home late at night. One girl reported that she frequently falls asleep at stoplights. Another girl said that rumble strips had awakened her several times. Several girls report that they have arrived home but cannot remember any part of the trip. They do not see any alternative. They have to get where they are going. They open the window, turn the music up, and drink some caffeine if available. Several girls reported that they call their friends on their cell phones to keep awake. Girls in Fort Lee indicated that this was another good reason to eliminate the ban on carrying passengers since they would help keep them awake.
Fewer girls than boys reported being involved in street racing, and all of them were in Seattle. Three girls from Seattle (age 17) are regular participants. The most dedicated street racer indicated that her parents did not know or did not care that she was out at 3 a.m. on every Saturday in violation of the curfew for young drivers. Some of the girls were dating boys who participated in the street races regularly. They did not enjoy it, but they would ride with them in the races if it was cold outside because they did not want to stand around in the cold.
Fewer girl participants reported that they regularly tailgate than boys, although they all complain about how annoying it is. The girls indicated that they were particularly bothered by being tailgated by large trucks or pickups with the bright lights on the roofs. Three of the 11 girls in the Fort Lee focus groups indicated that they tailgated, although they acknowledged that it was not safe to do. They said that they did it because they were bothered by someone driving too slowly. The Seattle girls who speed excessively also report that they routinely tailgate because everyone is going so much slower than they are. As a result, they do not have any problem with people tailgating them because no one can keep up.
The girl participants had a somewhat different list of other distractions than the boys identified. It included checking on the baby in the back seat, digging in a purse to find something, talking to and flirting with people outside the car, and putting on makeup. They all feel that they can handle the distractions, although several reported that their minor crashes occurred when they took their eyes off the road for a second.
Behaviors That Were Only Discussed When Prompted
None of the girl participants reported failure to wear a safety belt as a dangerous behavior. This could be because they are more likely to routinely buckle up than the boys, at least in the front seat. All of the girl participants in Fort Lee and all but one of the girl participants in Seattle reported that they always buckled up in the front seat. All but a few indicated that they did not always buckle up in the back seat. One Seattle girl only buckled up on long trips. As girls in both Fort Lee and Seattle indicated, “There is no good reason not to.”
Motivation for Changing Behavior
The girls in Fort Lee and Seattle felt that they were all pretty good drivers and did not need to change their behaviors. Several commented that they were better drivers than their parents.
When asked what scares them most about being responsible for a serious crash the following factors were mentioned:
- Increased insurance cost
- Wrecking a car
- Telling parents
- Guilt about hurting or killing someone
- “How will I pay for all the expense?”
A girl who was a passenger in a serious crash said that the experience has changed her own driving habits. She checks her blind spots all the time and waits a long time at stop signs.
Another girl from Seattle, however, reported that she does not see anything changing if she had a bad crash, unless maybe she killed someone. Her parents are not going to take her car away because “they are not about to start driving me around again.”
When asked to identify what might motivate other teen drivers, the girls’ responses mirrored the boys’, focusing on the need to experience something in order to learn from it. The girls did add the concept of parents playing a bigger role, by imposing more discipline in their children and making them more accountable. The girl participants who had to pay for their tickets, increased insurance, and car repairs felt that they were more careful drivers than the girls whose parents kept replacing wrecked cars.
The girl participants agreed with the boy participants that kids might benefit from hearing horror stories from their peers complete with all the gory details.
The girl participants could recall the same traffic safety messages as the boy participants, and only one could recall a drunk driving message, Drive Hammered – Get Nailed. They were most familiar with the anti-marijuana ads and the Truth ads for cigarette smoking. They also talked about the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program, which they thought was “worthless” because it just made them more curious about the different drugs. They recalled an additional anti-marijuana ad, one dealing with a little girl drowning in a swimming pool because no one was there to help her. This one impressed them with the importance of intervening with a friend with a problem.
When asked what messages, or message styles, would be most effective, the generic girls made the same general recommendations as the boys. They shared the boys’ enthusiasm for the Truth ads and also commented on the antipregnancy ads, specifically the “Youngest Grandma” spot.
Building on their belief that parents could and should be a more significant factor, one girl recommended a TV commercial showing parents waiting up for the child to come home at night, then answering the door to a policeman telling them about a fatal crash. The impact of this news on the parent would have an impact on teen drivers. They also think there should be more messages directed at parents telling them to impose more controls on their children.
The girls shared the boys’ belief that the messages should be scary, but believably scary, by using real-life examples. The graphics should grab their attention and are probably more important than the words as long as they make you think. As an example, someone referenced the Truth billboard with a picture of an ashtray filled with cigarette butts and ashes, comparing it to your lungs.
Some effort should be made to make saving someone’s life a really cool thing rather than a “goody-two-shoes” thing.
The reactions to the delivery mechanisms list were similar to the boys’ reaction with only a few variations.
- Radio: Girls indicated that powerful radio commercials such as the Truth ads could be effective for traffic safety. They also wanted the DJ to do more talking citing statistics whenever possible.
- Web sites: Girls in Fort Lee also recommended Rotten.com for gory pictures of car crashes. They could not think of any other Web sites that would appeal to girls. They were more likely to explore welcome screens from messaging sites, however (see below).
- Magazine: The generic females were more receptive to using magazines to delivering messages. They seem to read more magazines. They recommended Cosmopolitan, YM, Seventeen, US Weekly, and similar publications. They recommended “cool ads like the Truth ads” and pop-out ads that capture your attention. They also said they would read articles that presented real life example of kids in crashes and the effects it had on their lives, friends, and family.
- Celebrities and Sports Figures: The girls were less enthusiastic than the boys about using celebrities or sports figures. They should only be used if they have a personal story to tell. One girl said that celebrities should not be used because “you know they are getting paid so you cannot believe anything they say.” Another girl commented, “You have to know they care.” She cited Doug Flutie’s ads about autism, which are believable because his son has autism and the father seems very sincere. If sports figures were going to be used, they should be younger athletes, preferably Olympic athletes, and world champions rather than professional sports figures because they are more believable and less interested in just getting paid.
- Local Figures: The girls agreed that presentations made by trauma center personnel could be effective.
- Cell Phone and Internet Text Messaging: While the girls agreed that Cell Phone Text Messaging is a bad idea, they were more open to placing information on the welcome screens to AOL, Instant Messaging, and MSN. They seem to be more likely to click through on interesting links and to take quizzes and respond to surveys.
- Cable TV Networks: The girls suggested that more traffic safety story lines be used in the plots for popular TV shows like The OC. The plots should try to make it cool to not like drunk driving. Kids need some role models and strategies for standing up to people. They also thought it would be good to create a COPS-like show that just focuses on traffic crashes. Everything has to be real, “I am a street racer, and here is what happened to me.” Truth-like ads should also be placed around popular shows like Oprah, Friends, Will and Grace re-runs, and shows on the WB network.
- Movie Theater Trailers: Girls universally supported running traffic safety messages in movie theaters as long as they were powerful and true. They should include real people, be shocking, and be placed with appropriate movies. “Don’t show blood and gore in front of a chick flick.”
- School officials: Assembly speakers are usually a bad idea. It would be better to have small groups like this focus group so kids could talk about their experiences. They have drugs groups at school. There should be some type of driving group. Don’t call it traffic safety though. One girl mentioned the Requiem for a Dream film that is shown at schools as a good film. It would be good to have a new one for driving that showed the effect of the crash on everything: the car, the injuries, the tickets, the court system, juvenile detention, parents, etc. You need to scare some kids. Another person suggested that quick moments are better than long lectures.
- High-impact posters in local hangouts.
- Use parents more – the girls were even more emphatic about the influence that parents have on them and how, when parents tell them what they expect and what they worry about, kids as a rule don’t want to let them down.