From Center for the Advancement of Health
Parental rules linked to safer teen driving
Parents can play an important role in promoting safe driving habits in teens, according to the results of a study published in the April issue of Health Education & Behavior.
"Adolescents were much more likely to drive safely when their parents restricted their driving and monitored their whereabouts," says study lead author Jessica Hartos, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Md.
The results of this study also showed that teens were more likely to drive dangerously if they lacked self-control, thought it was acceptable to engage in deviant behaviors or had friends who engaged in risky activities.
Deviant behaviors included smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and bullying other students, and risky activities included shoplifting and stealing.
More than 5,000 people between 16 and 21 die in automobile accidents every year, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Compared with older drivers, adolescents are more likely to engage in unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding, tailgating and weaving in and out of traffic.
The researchers interviewed 261 adolescents in the southern part of Maryland in 1998. Students were asked about their driving behavior, attitudes toward deviant behaviors and their friends' involvement in risky behaviors. The study also asked teenagers about parental limits on their driving and how much their parents monitored their activities.
Researchers also used a follow-up telephone survey asking the same questions three months later. Slightly more than half of the adolescents surveyed were female and 85 percent were white. The students had received their licenses between one and 24 months prior to the study. Length of time driving was not linked to driving behavior.
Gender, however, was related to driving practices, with girls reporting that they engaged in an average of 1.98 unsafe practices each time they took the wheel, compared to an average of 2.44 for boys.
Students "who report that their parents have specific rules about when and where they can go in the car and keep up with their daily activities are less likely to report a range of risky driving behaviors that could lead to traffic violations and motor vehicle crashes or injuries," says Hartos.
"As with other adolescent privileges, parents should establish clear expectations and place limits on the behaviors of their adolescents" when they learn how to drive, according to Hartos.
Health Education & Behavior, a bimonthly peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), publishes research on critical health issues for professionals in the implementation and administration of public health information programs. SOPHE is an international, non-profit professional organization that promotes the health of all people through education. For information about the journal, contact Elaine Auld at 202-408-9804.