Talking to teens can lead to safer driving

Published on July 17, 2019

A new study from the University of Iowa finds that the use of video monitoring technology combined with parents talking to their teens about safe driving motivates young drivers to be safer.

The study, by researchers in the College of Public Health, finds that in-vehicle video monitoring systems more effectively improve safety for high school drivers when paired with additional communication from parents. The study found that training parents how to improve communication with their children about safe driving reduced the probability of future unsafe driving incidents by as much as 80 percent.

A portrait of Corinne Peek-Asa, Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Iowa College of Public Health.
Corinne Peek-Asa

Corinne Peek-Asa, study co-author and professor of occupational and environmental health in the College of Public Health, says about 3,000 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 in the U.S. die every year in motor vehicle crashes, making auto accidents the leading cause of death for teens in that age group. Various technologies have been developed to improve safety, including in-vehicle monitoring systems that record speed, direction, g-force, and other factors when teens are driving the vehicle. When the vehicle exceeds a safety threshold—such as sudden braking, acceleration, or swerves—the driver’s parents receive a real-time notification from the in-vehicle monitoring system about the unsafe driving event. Some models also are equipped with systems that record video and/or audio of what is happening inside the vehicle while the teen is driving.

For the study, researchers from the College of Public Health and National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) followed 150 families in Iowa over a period of three years. All drivers were teenagers who recently received their driver’s licenses, and onboard video-monitoring systems were installed on all vehicles. Fifty of the parents received notifications of their child’s unsafe driving events, and 50 were not notified.

The remaining 50 received notification, and also agreed to participate in an ongoing series of conversations about safe driving with their child based on the Steering Teens Safe program. The program, a parent guide under development by researchers at the College of Public Health, helps parents improve their child’s safe driving skills by providing more focused feedback during a conversation after an unsafe driving event notification from the monitoring technology.

“Steering Teens Safe is the only program that focuses specifically on parent communication strategies to help self-motivate teens to embrace safe driving behaviors,” says Peek-Asa. The study found that the 50 young drivers whose families discussed safe driving based on Steering Teens Safe had 80 percent fewer subsequent unsafe driving incidents than the 100 drivers in the other two groups, and 65 percent fewer than the group that received only parental notification.

According to researchers, the study suggests that teen driving can be made safer with increased support from parents and increased use of programs such as Steering Teens Safe that train parents to provide more relevant and useful feedback.

“Feedback from other audiences, such as driver education instructors, could also be helpful,” Peek-Asa says.

The study will be published in the October issue of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention. It was authored by Corinne Peek-Asa, Cara Hamann, Brandon Butcher, and Joseph Cavanaugh in the College of Public Health and Michelle Reyes at NADS.

This story originally appeared in Iowa Now

Additional Media Coverage

Here’s What the Parents of the Most Successful Kids Do Differently, According to Science (Inc.)
https://www.inc.com/christina-desmarais/science-says-most-successful-kids-have-parents-who-do-these-4-things_1.html

Study shows parent/teen conversations can improve driver safety (Newswise)
https://www.newswise.com/articles/study-shows-parentteen-conversations-can-improve-driver-safety

More parental communication motivates young drivers to be safer (News-Medical.net)
https://www.news-medical.net/news/20190716/More-parental-communication-motivates-young-drivers-to-be-safer.aspx