Summary of Responses by Group (continued)
Because the differences between the risky males and the safer males are so subtle, it will be easier to compare and contrast their responses if they are presented side by side rather than in separate sections. The information below does not repeat the basic comments made by the initial generic male group unless they are used to highlight the differences between the risky males and safer males.
General Driving Information
The safer males were also 15 to 18 years old but were driving for 6 months to 3 years. None of the safer males reported driving before they got their licenses.
The Safer Drivers rated their skills from 2 to 10 (only one male) with most coming in at 8. They rated their responsibility at 4 to 9, with an average rating of 6.5
Nineteen of the 30 safer drivers were involved in some form of crash. These crashes also involved being hit by someone else or backing into a fixed object.
Nine of the 30 safer drivers reported being pulled over, with 5 of them receiving tickets.
In Seattle, all the affinity group participants and 3 of the focus group participants either had tickets or were pulled over. The sponsor for the affinity group reported receiving a total of 21 tickets for such things as speeding and reckless driving, but his parents obtained a lawyer for him, who managed to get 20 of the tickets thrown out so he still has his license. All of the other drivers in the affinity group he organized also reported receiving tickets for reckless driving, speeding, and failure to wear safety belts. As a group, these young men exhibited all of the characteristics of risky drivers.
Unsafe Driving Behaviors
The risky drivers and safer drivers listed the same unsafe behaviors, but the comments made about each behavior are significantly different. The risky drivers seem to be justifying their own unsafe driving behaviors while the safer drivers are complaining about the unsafe things everyone else does.
The items most frequently mentioned are listed below. Comments about each behavior are provided in the paragraphs that follow. The order in which these items were mentioned varied somewhat from group to group but they all emerged without prompting from the facilitator.
Four drivers also said they had ridden with another driver who had been drinking. In most cases it was a parent who had been drinking.
The risky males as a group were more anti-drinking and driving than the generic males.
They attributed their attitudes to school messages, MADD, and DARE (one male said he had a really cool DARE officer.)
One risky driver indicated that the issue is not the drinking. “Everyone is drinking. But I throw my keys to a friend whenever I know I will be drinking to make sure I don’t drive.”
It should be noted that the Minneapolis Safer Driver focus group did not mention drunk driving as a problem until the facilitator asked about it. When asked about it, they spent more time reporting the problems their friends have had which seemed to have had an influence on them. Only 4 of the 30 drivers reported that they had driven after drinking. It was a one-time thing, and they were not planning on doing it again.
Four of the safer drivers also reported that they had driven after drinking once or twice. They all vowed not to do it again because they were really frightened. They reported being very aware of the effect on their driving ability even though they were only driving a short distance. The safer drivers also mentioned driving after smoking marijuana. They all indicated they believed it improved their driving ability.
The safer drivers seemed more opposed to driving with someone else who had been drinking. “I am not going to trust someone else with my life.” They were also more focused on the consequences of drinking and driving. “I don’t want any of my friends to die.” The safer drivers also reported that they were afraid of what their parents might do if they got a ticket for DWI.
Both the risky drivers and safer drivers reported that they regularly stopped their friends or their parents from driving drunk.
Both groups seemed to think that one or two beers are not a problem, but the safer drivers recognized that when they drank a “40” or even a “40 and a half” (40 or 60 ounces of beer) they might be affected.
A recurring contrast between the risky and safer drivers is how they perceive and react to high-risk situations, such as driving while impaired or speeding. The risky drivers experience the risky situation as a thrill that should be pursued again and again, while the safer drivers perceive exactly the same situation as terrifying, and they decided to avoid it in the future. The physical sensation of the adrenaline surge is probably the same for both types of drivers, but safer drivers do not experience any pleasure as a result, while risky drivers claim they become addicted to the sensation.
Talking on Cell Phones
Talking to Friends
The safer drivers reported that their friends are likely to do the same crazy things, but the safer drivers don’t put up with it. They indicated that they tell the unruly passengers to stop or they kick them out of the car. They also ignore being egged on to do stupid things. They also supported the graduated license restriction on the number of passengers for the first three months.
Fooling Around With the Radio or CD Player or Other Distractions
Safer drivers recognize that there are many distractions in the car but they work hard to avoid problems with them. They try not to take their eyes off the road. The safer drivers were more likely to make comments like “I am a responsible driver and I don’t want to hurt anyone else, in my car or on the road.” One safer driver said, “People need to take driving more seriously.”
Speeding and Street Racing
Street racing is more accepted in the risky driver group. They claim to do it wherever there are no police officers. Teens know the back roads where they all meet. The top speed mentioned was 155 mph, although most only claim to reach speeds of 110 to 120. The risky drivers pursue this because it is fun, and “a thrill,” and because it is very popular, thanks to The Fast and the Furious movies. They do not know anyone who has been hurt in a crash during street races.
Safer drivers generally limit their street racing to challenging other drivers at red lights and seeing who can get to the next intersection faster, although there is a limited amount of more organized street racing. The safer drivers reported being frightened at the high speeds although they cannot admit this to their friends. They cannot refuse a challenge to drag racing, but they do not think it is a big hazard since most of their cars cannot go very fast.
Things That Others Do
Their reactions to these behaviors are the same as the reaction of the generic males. One safer driver stated that “older drivers [are] more dangerous than teens, yet teens get all the bad publicity.”
Those who always wear belts claim it is just a habit that their parents insisted on. Others say that tickets are too expensive. Occasional users might buckle up when the weather is bad. Some claim that the safety belt causes an injury in a crash. The comment was made, “They call them accidents for a reason!” indicating that there was nothing that could be done if your number was up. Other drivers only buckle up if someone who they do not trust is driving.
Motivation for Changing Behavior
The risky drivers and safer drivers have common reactions to the thought of a crash. They are
Risky drivers seemed to be more worried about losing their license, and they are more likely to mention money as one of their concerns. The safer drivers focused on the personal relationships, and how a serious crash would devastate their parents. All of the safer drivers were concerned that their parents would be devastated if they were killed and that this influenced their driving.Only some of the risky drivers expressed concern about how their parents would react. The risky drivers focused more on how they would feel if they killed a friend.
Both groups indicated that friends are the most likely groups to be able to change a behavior. Girls have the greatest influence on young men. They also shared the view that experience would have the most lasting effect on improving behavior. Safer drivers believe that friends can influence other drivers but risky drivers felt that friends or family would only change their behavior for a short while, not permanently.
The risky and safer drivers reported hearing the same messages as the generic males and females. One safe driver also reported hearing the Bacardi commercials about drinking responsibly and knowing your limits. He thought that it was “pretty silly” for a liquor company to sponsor the ad. These two groups did focus more attention on the programs that their schools sponsored such as the Grim Reaper/Day of the Dead, and the wrecked car for the prom, although they did not believe they had any lasting effects.
When asked what messages, or message styles, would be most effective, the risky and safer drivers responded similarly to the generic males and females. A safer driver added one style comment, that the messages should be very fast-paced in recognition of the notion that everyone has ADD. Another safer driver indicated that whatever is developed needs to be “eye-popping!”
There was little or no difference in how the risky and safer groups responded to the various delivery mechanisms compared to the generic males. The notable differences are mentioned below.
There were very few regional differences observed in the responses from the focus groups participants. The most significant is the prevalence of street racing. The focus groups suggest that it is very popular in Seattle, not very popular in Fort Lee, and perhaps growing in popularity in Atlanta and Minneapolis. The data also suggests that Atlanta street racing seems to be more ad hoc, without a clearly defined area as exists in Seattle and to a lesser extent in Minneapolis. As was indicated earlier, according to the focus groups it does not seem very popular in Fort Lee, although teens there still try to get find opportunities to push their car to the limit. Population density and traffic congestion in Fort Lee make it harder to find a suitable location.
In the focus groups, more males reported driving trucks and spending time on rural roads in Minneapolis and in Atlanta, although some Seattle youth do take long trips to more remote areas. The focus groups also suggest that prevalence of trucks seems to affect how the teens drive and what they expect from their vehicle. Teens who drive trucks commented that they felt safe in their trucks and therefore did not feel the need to wear safety belts. Teen pickup drivers report that they did not feel their vehicles could hit the same high speeds as some of the other car models that teens were driving.