3.1 Parental Role in Teaching and Managing Young Drivers
Overall Effectiveness Concerns: This countermeasure has been examined in several research studies. Despite some positive research findings, particularly in terms of behavioral changes, the balance of evidence regarding countermeasure effectiveness remains inconclusive.
Most parents are heavily involved in teaching driving skills to their beginning teenage drivers and supervising their driving while they have learner permits. Parents are often in the best position to enforce GDL restrictions for intermediate drivers and to impose additional driving restrictions on their teenagers. Parents strongly support GDL; however, many 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 reported that most parental guidance is reactive and may not allow for the teens to practice driving in complex situations (Simons-Morton et al., 2017). Parents 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 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).
The majority of States provide some form of guidance to parents of teen drivers in the form of booklets/brochures and/or videos, much of it online. However, it has been demonstrated that passive dissemination of information to parents is not an effective method to change parents’ behaviors and ultimately reduce teen driver crashes (Chaudhary et al., 2004; Goodwin et al., 2006). In hopes of better equipping parents to supervise and manage their teens’ driving, there has been a growing interest in programs that involve direct interaction and engagement with parents. Although many such programs have been developed, the following programs are highlighted because they have been evaluated and shown promising results: Checkpoints, Green Light for Life, Steering Teens Safe, TeenDrivingPlan, and the Share the Keys Program. See Curry 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 uses videos and periodic newsletters to reinforce the need for parents to limit their newly licensed teens’ driving under risky conditions. A central feature are written agreements parents and teens review and sign. They limit teen driving under high-risk situations, such as driving at night, with other teens in the cars, 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 to the Checkpoints program, and to have them work in pairs to begin developing these parent-teen driving agreements (Zakrajsek et al., 2009).
Green Light for Life (GLL): This program has been implemented in Israel since 2005 (Taubman-Ben-Ari & Lotan, 2011; Toledo et al., 2012). From 2005 to 2008 approximately 130,000 families participated in the program. GLL consists of an in-person, 45-minute meeting with a parent and their young driver prior to entering the accompanied driving phase, otherwise known as the learner’s permit stage in the United States. During the meeting, parents and teens are encouraged to get as much supervised driving practice as possible in a variety of conditions. Parents are encouraged to share their hazard perception knowledge and skills with their teen drivers. Strategies for dealing with in-vehicle dynamics between the teen and parent are also discussed. Families are given a booklet and CD to take home.
Steering Teens Safe: This 45-minute, in-person program focuses on improving parental communication skills by teaching them to use motivational interviewing techniques to talk to their teens about safe driving. Parents receive DVDs and workbooks with 19 safe driving lessons to help them discuss, demonstrate, and practice safe driving behaviors and skills with their teens. Steering Teens Safe is intended for parents of teens who are in the learner permit phase (Peek-Asa et al., 2014; Ramirez et al., 2013).
TeenDrivingPlan: Parents use this web-based program in the learner permit phase to increase the quantity and quality of their supervised driving practice. It includes 53 web-based videos, a web-based planner to structure practice sessions, and a web-based log to record and rate driving practice sessions (Mirman et al., 2014). See https://injury.research.chop.edu/sites/default/files/documents/tdp_logging_tool.pdf for the logging and rating tool.
Share the Keys program: Previously known as the New Jersey Parent/Teen Driver Orientation Program, Share the Keys was developed to educate parents about New Jersey’s GDL program, laws, and the importance of parental involvement in teen driver safety (Knezek et al., 2018). It lasts 60 to 90 minutes and is delivered as a 26-slide deck with 10 videos focused on parental involvement and their roles in preventing risky teen driver behaviors. Parenting styles (e.g., authoritarian) and opportunities for parents to serve as role models of ideal behavior (e.g., not texting while driving) are covered in the content. Parents and teens collaboratively develop contracts and pledges related to GDL restrictions. Companion guides and online resources give them information during the supervised training period.
Use: Checkpoints and TeenDrivingPlan are available on the web. Steering Teens Safe is being evaluated and is not yet available for the public. Green Light for Life is not currently available in the United States. 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’ 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 who participated in the facilitated Checkpoints program showed greater awareness of teen driving risks, were more likely to complete a parent-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 also found that parents who participated in the program were more likely to report that they used a parent-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.
Green Light for Life: To date it has undergone two evaluations. Taubman-Ben-Ari and Lotan (2011) examined its effectiveness by comparing self-reports of 362 teenagers who participated in the program with 376 teens who did not. They found no difference in the amount of accompanied driving teens obtained during the supervised driving phase or the level of reckless driving reported. However, teen participants reported more positive attitudes about the supervised driving phase and reported less crash involvement. A national study evaluated injury crash involvement between teens who participated in the GLL program from 2005 to 2007 compared to teens who did not participate. Based on analysis of injury crash data during the first 2 years after licensing, teen participants had 10% lower injury crash rates (Toledo et al., 2012). Nonetheless, both studies suffered from possible effects of self-selection bias. A follow-up study is underway to examine behavior and crash data of young drivers at the individual level, in an attempt to address this potential bias.
Steering Teens Safe: This was evaluated via randomized controlled trials (Peek-Asa et al., 2014, 2019). The 2014 study examined the effectiveness of parent communication about driving safety as perceived by the teen driver, and the teens’ self-reported risky driving. Teens reported a higher quality of parent communication than control teens, and the teens in the program reported a 21% reduction in self-reported risky driving compared with control teens. The 2019 report compared teen drivers who received no feedback on their driving, drivers with electronic feedback, and drivers with combined electronic and parental feedback based on event monitoring and who had 65% and 85% fewer unsafe driving events (such as distracted driving, speeding, or driver and passenger seat belt use) respectively.
TeenDrivingPlan: To date one randomized controlled trial has been conducted to measure its effects. Mirman et al. (2014) found that families who used the TeenDrivingPlan reported more driving practice in environments and situations (i.e., night and bad weather) compared to teens not in the program. In addition, teens in the TeenDrivingPlan group were less likely to be terminated during on-road driving tests compared to teens not in the program (6% and 15%, respectively).
Share the Keys program: A longitudinal survey-based evaluation was performed on the initial implementation in New Jersey. Overall, parents reported high levels of engagement with their teens in the GDL process. In general, parents were more reluctant to take on authoritative/authoritarian roles in the process, which was associated with a lack of teen driver compliance with nighttime curfews and passenger restrictions. Some positive changes were observed, such as increases in passenger limit compliance over time. Parents also appreciated the ability to engage with other parents and teen drivers to allow for clarification of their own roles as monitors and enforcers. Share the Keys 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 have not yet shown reductions in young driver crashes, there is still reason to be optimistic. Programs such as Checkpoints have increased parent limit setting, and several studies show that teenagers whose parents impose stricter 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.
Costs: Checkpoints is available on the web; however, in order to use the facilitated version, staff time would be needed to implement in-person sessions. Share the Keys presentations are provided free of charge to schools and communities.
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. Green Light for Life, Steering Teens Safe, and the TeenDrivingPlan program implementation details are not available.