Programs to Assist Parents/Guardians of Young Drivers
Most parents/guardians are heavily involved in teaching driving skills to their beginning teenage drivers and supervising their driving while they have a learner’s permit. Parents/guardians are often in the best position to enforce GDL restrictions for intermediate drivers and to impose additional driving restrictions on their teenagers. Parents/guardians strongly support GDL; however, many parents/guardians do not understand the dangers of high-risk situations for teen drivers, such as driving with teenage passengers. A review of naturalistic driving data collected from young drivers indicated that most parental/guardian guidance is reactive and may not allow for the teens to practice driving in complex situations (Simons-Morton et al., 2017). Parents/guardians could use systematic guidance and assistance in supervising and training teens (Hedlund et al., 2003; Goodwin et al., 2007, Strategies C1-C3; Simons-Morton et al., 2017). For summaries of the research on parent/guardian involvement in teen driving, see Simons-Morton and Ouimet (2006) or Simons-Morton et al. (2008). For a review of promising parent programs, see GHSA (2013).
In hopes of better equipping parents/guardians to supervise and manage their teens’ driving, there has been a growing interest in programs that involve direct interaction and engagement with parents and guardians. Although many such programs have been developed, the following programs are highlighted because they have been evaluated and shown promising results: Checkpoints, Steering Teens Safe, TeenDrivingPlan, and the Share the Keys Program. See Curry, Peek-Asa, et al. (2015) for a review of similar programs.
Checkpoints: The original Checkpoints program, developed by Simons-Morton and colleagues at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, is a program that uses videos and periodic newsletters to reinforce the need for parents/guardians to limit their newly licensed teens’ driving under risky conditions. A central feature of the program is a written agreement that parents/guardians and teens review and sign. The agreement limits teens’ driving under various high-risk situations, such as driving at night, with other teens in the car, or in bad weather (Simons-Morton & Hartos, 2003). The facilitated Checkpoints program has been adapted from the original version to include a 30-minute in-person session to introduce teens and parents/guardians to the Checkpoints program, and to have them work in pairs to begin developing a parent/guardian-teen driving agreement (Zakrajsek et al., 2009).
Steering Teens Safe: This is a 45-minute in-person program that focuses on improving parents’/guardians’ communication skills by teaching them to use motivational interviewing techniques to talk to their teens about safe driving. Parents/guardians receive a DVD and a workbook with 19 safe driving lessons to help parents/guardians to discuss, demonstrate, and practice safe driving behaviors and skills with their teens. Steering Teens Safe is intended for parents/guardians of teens who are in the learner permit phase (Peek-Asa et al., 2014; Ramirez et al., 2013).
TeenDrivingPlan: This is a web-based program for parents/guardians to use during the learner permit phase to increase the quantity and quality of their supervised driving practice. The TeenDrivingPlan includes 53 web-based videos, a web-based planner to help teens and parents/guardians structure their practice sessions, and a web-based log to record and rate driving practice sessions (Mirman et al., 2014).
Share the Keys (STK) program: Previously known as the New Jersey Parent/Teen Driver Orientation Program, the Share the Keys program was developed to provide parents/guardians with education on New Jersey’s GDL program, laws, and the importance of parental/guardian involvement in teen driver safety (Knezek et al., 2018). The program lasts for 60 to 90 minutes and is delivered as a 26-slide deck with 10 videos focused on parental/guardian involvement and their role in preventing risky teen driver behaviors. Parenting styles (e.g., Authoritarian) and opportunities for parents/guardians to serve as role models of ideal behavior (e.g., not texting while driving) are covered in the content. Parents/guardians and teens are asked to collaboratively develop contracts and pledges related to GDL restrictions. Companion guides and online resources are provided to the parents/guardians and teens for information during the supervised training period.
Checkpoints and TeenDrivingPlan are available on the web. Steering Teens Safe is not yet available for the public. Share the Keys presentations can be scheduled by schools and communities free of charge, with online resources available for the public at any time.
Checkpoints: Results from testing in several States show the original Checkpoints program produces modest increases in parents’/guardians’ restrictions on teen driving (Simons-Morton & Hartos, 2003; Simons-Morton et al., 2005). However, a study in Connecticut found no differences in violations or crashes for families who participated in the Checkpoints program when compared with families who did not participate in the program (Simons-Morton et al., 2006).
The facilitated Checkpoints program has been evaluated and has had promising results. Zakrajsek et al. (2009) evaluated the program delivered by trained health educators in driver education classes and found that, relative to a comparison group, parents/guardians who participated in the facilitated Checkpoints program showed greater awareness of teen driving risks, were more likely to complete a parent/guardian-teen driving agreement and reported setting stricter limits on their teens’ driving during the intermediate license phase. Zakrajsek et al. (2013) conducted an evaluation of the facilitated Checkpoints program delivered by driver education instructors and found that parents/guardians who participated in the program were more likely to report that they used a parent/guardian-teen driving agreement and had stricter limits on their teens’ driving. Teens also self-reported less risky driving. However, they found no differences in crashes for teens who participated in the program compared to teens who did not participate.
Steering Teens Safe: The Steering Teens Safe program has been evaluated via randomized controlled trials (Peek-Asa et al., 2014; Peek-Asa et al., 2019). One study examined the effectiveness of parent/guardian communication about driving safety as perceived by the teen driver, and the teens’ self-reported risky driving (Peek-Asa et al., 2014). Teens in the Steering Teens Safe program reported a higher quality of parent/guardian communication than control teens, and the teens in the program reported a 21% reduction in self-reported risky driving compared with control teens. Peek-Asa et al. (2019) report that, compared to teen drivers who received no feedback on their driving, drivers with electronic feedback and drivers with combined electronic and parental/guardian feedback based on event monitoring had 65% and 85% fewer unsafe driving events (such as distracted driving, speeding, or driver and passenger seat belt use) respectively. Hamann et al. (2019) examined how family communication patterns influenced the effectiveness of the Steering Teens Safe program. They found the program had the most impact on families with a laissez-faire communication style. Families with a laissez-faire communication style in the combined electronic and parental feedback intervention group had an average of a 29% reduction in the teen's unsafe driving event rate compared with teens in the group who just received electronic feedback.
TeenDrivingPlan: To date, one randomized controlled trial has been conducted to measure the effects of the TeenDrivingPlan. Mirman et al. (2014) found that families who used the plan reported more driving practice in various environments and situations (i.e., night and bad weather) compared to teens not in the program. In addition, teens that were in the TeenDrivingPlan group were less likely to be terminated during an on-road driving test compared to teens not in the program (6% and 15%, respectively).
Share the Keys (STK) program: A longitudinal survey-based evaluation was performed on the initial STK program implementation in New Jersey. Overall, parents/guardians reported high levels of engagement with their teens in the GDL process. In general, parents/guardians were more reluctant to take on authoritative/authoritarian roles in their teens’ GDL process, which was associated with a lack of teen driver compliance with nighttime curfews and passenger restrictions. Some positive changes were observed, such as the increase in passenger limit compliance over time. Parents/guardians also appreciated the ability to engage with other parents/guardians and teen drivers in the program to allow for clarification of their own roles as monitors and enforcers. STK can be combined with other programs such as Checkpoints to provide consistent benefits in the short term (Knezek et al., 2017).
Although evaluations of programs to assist parents/guardians have not yet shown reductions in young driver crashes, there is still reason to be optimistic. Programs such as Checkpoints have increased parent/guardian limit setting, and several studies show that teenagers whose parents/guardians impose more strict driving limits report fewer risky driving behaviors, traffic violations and crashes (see Simons-Morton, 2007, for a review). Educational programs alone are unlikely to produce changes in behavior. However, education in combination with other strategies may deliver stronger results.
Checkpoints and the TeenDrivingPlan are available on the web for free. However, to use the facilitated version of Checkpoints, staff time would be needed to implement in the in-person session. Share the Keys presentations are provided free of charge to schools and communities. The cost of Steering Kids Safe is unknown.
Time to Implement:
The original Checkpoints program and the facilitated program are available immediately. However, to implement the facilitated Checkpoints program on a large scale, it would likely take a year for planning, staff training, and dissemination. The TeenDrivingPlan is available immediately online. Share the Keys resource guides are available online. Interactive 60–90-minute presentations must be scheduled. Steering Teens Safe program implementation details are not available, but a website is planned.