Many young driver experts believe that parental influence holds substantial promise for reducing young driver crashes. Parents supervise their teens’ early driving experience, they determine the timing of licensure, they govern access to (and choice of) vehicles, and they may impose restrictions on driving privileges. Certain parenting practices, such as limits on driving conditions, are associated with lower crash risk for teenagers. The question is how to encourage parents to adopt these parenting practices. Research has shown that simply telling parents what they should do has no demonstrable effect on their behavior. More persuasive techniques are needed.
In a developing trend, legislators in Connecticut and Virginia have recently enacted provisions requiring parents to attend initial orientation sessions at the time their teenager begins supervised driving. For example, Connecticut now requires parents to attend a two-hour orientation session when their teenager gets a permit. The effects of requiring this kind of parent involvement can be evaluated, but it would be preferable for such policies to be research-based from the outset. In particular, the content of such required parental participation will likely be critical to its success or failure. Evidence concerning the most appropriate information and presentation mode would be helpful, but at present this kind of guidance is lacking.
Statement of the Problem
There is a growing interest in requiring parental participation in the driver education process. Policy-makers are clearly moving to establish the infrastructure for such efforts. However, there is little evidence to indicate what the nature of parental involvement should be. This suggests a great need to develop the most promising approaches and to test them, before there is widespread legislative activity to mandate meetings for parents for which there is no known useful content or format.
The present research objective is to test several approaches for requiring parental involvement in the driver education process to learn what approaches, if any, have a positive effect on subsequent parent and teen behavior.
The proposed research will begin by establishing a cooperative agreement with the driver education system within one or more states. Approximately 60 driver education classes will then be randomly assigned to either standard driver education (control) or one of two interventions. In the first intervention, parents will attend a two-hour program which will include education about teen driver risks, as well as tips and training for how to supervise a beginning teen driver. This intervention will largely involve passive dissemination of information to parents. In the second intervention, parents will also receive education about teen driver risks; however, parents will also participate in a novel, interactive program that will involve viewing and discussing actual driving clips of parents and teens during supervised driving sessions. The driving clips will highlight what to expect during driving sessions and provide examples of good (and poor) parent practices. The program will also describe specific actions parents can take, as supervisors, to ensure their teen obtains considerable driving experience in a wide variety of situations/conditions.
To evaluate the three approaches, parents and teens will complete written surveys at the time of the class and participate in periodic follow-up telephone surveys. The follow-up surveys will be conducted one, three, six, 12 and 24 months after the teen obtains his or her initial learner’s permit. Study outcomes will include parental management practices of their teen’s driving; teen driving experience during the permit phase, including the amount and conditions of supervised practice; and teen risky driving behaviors and crashes following licensure. Approximately 1,000 families will participate in the study. In sum, the proposed study will be a randomized controlled trial to determine whether various approaches for requiring parental involvement during driver education affects parental behavior and, ultimately, teen driving.
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