Study Reveals Talking to Teens May Lead to Safer Driving

30 Jul 2019

Researchers in the College of Public Health from the University of Iowa conducted a new study that found young drivers are motivated to be safer when their parents talk with them about safe driving and combine it with the use of video monitoring technology.

The study found in-vehicle video systems paired with parent communication more effectively improved high school driver safety. According to the study, when parents received training on ways to communicate better with their teens about safe driving, it reduced the possibility of unsafe driving incidents in the future by almost 80 percent.

Around 3,000 teens between 15 and 18 years old in the United States die each year in vehicle accidents, according to the College of Public Health’s professor of occupational and environmental health and study co-author, Corrine Peek-Asa. This makes vehicle crashes the leading cause of teen death in that age group.

There’s been a development of a number of technologies designed for improving safety. This includes in-vehicle monitoring systems that record certain factors when teenagers are driving, including:

  • G-force
  • Direction
  • Speed

Once the vehicle goes over the safety threshold like acceleration, swerving or braking, the parents of the driver receive notification in real-time from the in-vehicle monitoring system alerting them of the unsafe driving event. There are also models equipped with technologies that record audio and/or video of what’s going on inside the vehicle while the teenager is driving.

For the study, National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) and College of Public Health researchers followed 150 Iowa families over a three-year period. All the drivers were teens who had just received their licenses to drive. Each vehicle had an onboard video monitoring system installed on them. Out of the 150 families:

  • Notifications were sent to 50 of the parents regarding their teen’s unsafe driving events.
  • Fifty of the parents didn’t receive any notification.
  • The last 50 did receive a notification and also agreed to talk with their teens about safe driving on an ongoing basis based on the Steering Teens Safe Program.

The Steering Teens Safe Program is under development by the College of Public Health researchers. It’s designed to be a parent guide, teaching parents how to provide their teens with more focused feedback while communicating with them after they’ve received a notification of an unsafe driving event from the monitoring technology. It’s meant to help parents improve their teen’s safe driving skills.

The study found fifty teens who had the discussion with their parents about the Steering Teens Safe Program-based safe driving had 80 percent fewer unsafe driving events

afterwards than the 100 teen drivers in the other groups and 65 percent fewer unsafe driving events than the group that only received a parental notification.

Bottom line, the study suggests increased parental support and increased use of programs like GPS tracking for teens can make teen driving safer, according to the researchers. Peek-Asa says, other feedback from driver education instructors and other audiences could help as well.

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