Summary of Responses by Group (continued)

Risky and Safer Males – Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Atlanta, Georgia

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

Behind-the-Wheel Experience
The risky males ranged in age from 15 to 18 and had been driving for 4 to 42 months. Some of the risky males admitted that they had had several more years than that because they had been driving without a license since they were 12 or 13.

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.

Driving Ability:
The Risky Drivers rated their driving skills from 6 to 10, with the average coming in around 8.5. They rated their responsibility from 3.5 to 9.5, with the average coming in at 7.5.

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

Crash Experience
Ten of the 27 Risky Males were involved in a crash of some kind. The crashes involved rear-ending someone, being hit by someone, and backing into a fixed object. Half of them also know someone who was involved in a serious crash involving severe injuries. It is important to note that the Risk Male Affinity Group in Seattle only had one participant who could qualify as a risky driver. The organizer of the group had changed his life after the incident that qualified him as a risky driver. His new friends would all qualify as safer drivers, as would he.

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.

Citation Experience
Twelve of the 27 risky males reported receiving traffic citations for such violations as speeding, following too closely, failure to wear a safety belt, reckless driving, driving without a license, and running a red light. An additional 12 reported that they were pulled over but talked their way out of a ticket.

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.

  • Speeding
  • Driving drunk (or impaired by drugs)
  • Talking on cell phones
  • Fooling with radio or CD player or getting caught up in the music
  • Road rage
  • Drowsy driving
  • Street racing ♦ Driving “old”
  • Talking to friends in the back seat
  • Failure to signal lane changes
  • Putting on makeup and other distractions such as shaving, eating, flirting with girls

Drunk Driving
Only four of the risky drivers admitted to driving after having consumed a beer or more. All of these males indicated that it was pretty stupid to do and they would not do it again. One young man said that the one time he had done it, it really scared him. He fell in the door and he got really upset that he might have hurt someone else.

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.

  • “It’s stupid!”
  • “It is not worth it!”
  • “People think they can drive but they can’t.”

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
Cell phones were not a high-priority hazard for any of the risky or safer driver focus groups. They all acknowledged that it was hard to drive, smoke a cigarette, or shift gears while talking on the phone. They also reported that it is hard to text-message while driving, but they seem to manage it. The risky drivers felt they could handle it without any real problem although other drivers could not. The safe drivers indicated that they did not spend a lot of time chatting on the phone. They “just take care of business.”

Talking to Friends
Friends can be a problem for both the risky and safer drivers. However, their response to this problem is markedly different. The risky drivers indicated that they were able to handle the noise and confusion of having other people in the car. They agree that laws restricting the number of passengers is a good idea for new drivers, but believe that after three-to-six months, they are experienced enough to handle it so they can enjoy the benefit of having people in the car, such as providing directions or another set of eyes. The risky drivers reported a variety of stupid things that their friends have done that make it difficult to stay focused, but they could handle them all.

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 and risky drivers both approach these distractions the same way but for different reasons. Risky drivers are very confident of their abilities to multitask in the car. So they do not see this as a hazardous behavior for themselves, although they acknowledge that other drivers are more easily distracted.

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
Everyone in both the safe or risky driver groups reports driving over the posted speed limit. Both groups claim to generally keep up with traffic, at whatever speed that may be, usually 10 mph over the limit. Neither group thinks this is particularly dangerous, as long as it is limited to the appropriate conditions. Neither group claims to be speeding in neighborhoods. One exception to this is the one Atlanta risky driver who regularly takes speed humps at 80 mph to become airborne. He claims that he only does this late at night when no one is on the road.

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.

Drowsy Driving
The risky drivers and safe drivers report having the same reactions to drowsy driving as the generic males and the generic females, although the males are more likely to take a nap in the car. Several have swerved off the road or fallen asleep at stop lights. It happens when they are driving to school, or coming home after school or late at night. The risky drivers reported trying to stay awake until the 5 a.m. curfew is lifted. The safer drivers see drowsy driving as a big problem but they feel that driving drunk is a bigger problem.

The risky drivers and safer drivers both admit that tailgating is dangerous, but the risky drivers report that they seem more likely to do it anyway because they get impatient with someone who is driving too slowly. Safer drivers made statements like, “I like to leave enough space to react.” If a risky driver is being tailgated, he is likely to hit the brakes, slow down significantly, and otherwise annoy the tailgater to force him or her to move over or back off. The safer driver is more likely to move over to get out of the way of the tailgater, although he will be very annoyed. He is less likely to slam on the brakes because he does “not want to get rear-ended.”

Things That Others Do
The risky and safer drivers also identified behaviors that others do that cause problems for them.

These include:

  • Road rage
  • Failure to signal lane changes or swerving
  • Driving “old”

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.”

Behaviors That Were Only Discussed When Prompted
Failure to wear safety belts was not mentioned by any group as a hazardous behavior. It would appear that safer drivers are just as likely as risky drivers to fail to buckle up. There are some safer drivers and risky drivers who always wear their belts in the front seat. Fewer numbers always wear them in the back. At least one risky and one safer driver claim never to wear a belt, or only when they see a cop.

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
concerned about:

  • What will my parent say?
  • How will killing someone affect me, especially if it was one of my friends?
  • How will I find the money to pay for everything?

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.

Message Concepts

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!”

Delivery Mechanisms

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.

  • Radio: While kids listen to the radio, it would only work in the morning drive time programs when kids are less likely to change the station to avoid talking. The Atlanta groups were asked about OutKast and Jay-Z who have embedded safety messages in their music. While they knew the songs, they did not feel that they were delivering a real safety message. “It was just a song.” A safer driver said that whoever delivers a message has to be “totally real – not actors.” Something has to push the limits because teenagers think they are invincible.

  • Web sites: Although both groups were relatively skeptical about the value of Web sites, they suggested some possibilities. The risky drivers mentioned car sites and auto racing sites, while the safer driers mentioned music downloading sites such as Kazaa.

  • Magazines: Like the generic males, most of the safer and risky drivers did not like magazines as a delivery mechanism because they do not read much. If magazines were going to be used, they also suggested car and racing magazines, Rolling Stone, and sports magazines that appeal to young males.

  • Celebrities and Sports Figures: Sports figures might be effective if they are locally known, such as Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Both the risky and safer drivers in Minneapolis thought it would be good to have a local sports hero, especially if that person could talk about a personal experience.

  • Local Figures: The risky and safer drivers shared a common disregard for local police. They believe they pick on boys in particular. These groups were split on whether a paramedic would be effective.

  • Cell Phone and Internet Text Messaging: These should be absolutely avoided.

  • Cable TV Networks: Once concern was made that anything that ran on Comedy Central would not be taken seriously. Ads should be placed on popular shows such as Pimp My Ride, on MTV. A fact-based program with lots of statistics should be developed and shown Sunday night when there is nothing else good to watch.

  • Movie Theater Trailers: These groups were also evenly divided for and against movie trailers. Some risky drivers thought it would be annoying while others felt that they were already at the theater and watching the screen so why not show some good messages.

  • School officials: The safer drivers were more likely to support school assemblies and guest
    speakers, assuming that it was an interesting event. The risky drivers discounted these events
    as boring.

  • Other:
    • Billboards are popular.
    • Several participants said that something should be done to make Driver’s Education more interesting, with more relevant information, not just how to pass the test.
    • The risky drivers thought that consequences should be increased to really make an impact on reckless drivers.
    • Developers of programs have to recognize what driving means to kids. The car means freedom, thrills, having fun, and being with friends. Perhaps you could use that as leverage to get kids to be more careful, while still having fun.
    • Mexico places traffic safety messages on beer bottles. Maybe they should try that here.

Geographic Differences

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.