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Unsafe Driving Behaviors to Watch for with Your Teen
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2007

By: Staff

Because teen driving crashes are such a problem nationally, research organizations (often sponsored by insurance companies) conduct studies to determine the underlying cause of crashes. One recent study caught our attention -- and points out that we may not always know exactly what our teens do when they're alone in the car. The study was published in September, 2006 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and their partner organization, National Organization for Youth Safety. 

The study team held a total of 16 focus groups with boys and girls between 16 and 18 from four cities -- Atlanta, GA, Fort Lee, NJ, Minneapolis, MN and Seattle, WA.  The goal of the study was to document the kind of driving behaviors average teens engage in, and then to learn what kind of public messaging would be effective in alerting teens to the risks involved. You can read (or download the entire 92-page study as a PDF) by clicking Teen Unsafe Driving Behaviors: Focus Group Final Report

Following are a few of the surprising comments taken verbatim from the study report (with emphasis added):

When asked what might cause teenage boys to change their risky driving behaviors, several boys replied that they...

  • ...might not always drive responsibly [and] they did not believe they should or would change their behaviors.
  • "They generally felt that they were in control of their vehicles and would not change their behaviors until perhaps they were older and had children.
  • "While they did feel responsible for the people in their cars, most felt that their friends knew their driving habits, and by agreeing to ride with them, they were accepting the risk.

When these boys were asked what scares them most about being responsible for a serious crash, they mentioned these fears:

  • Fear of going to jail
  • Fear of the guilt that would come from killing someone else
  • Fear of losing parent’s trust
  • Fear of 'breaking parent’s heart if I died'
  • When pressed, they indicated that they would not want to die, but if they killed someone else it might be better to have died themselves.

Girls reported other fears:

  • Increased insurance cost
  • Wrecking a car
  • Telling parents
  • Guilt about hurting or killing someone
  • 'How will I pay for all the expense?'

One girl reported that she does not see anything [about her driving behavior] changing if she had a bad crash, unless maybe she killed someone. Her parents are not going to take her car away because "they are not about to start driving me around again."

The girls also "...made a point of talking about eating with forks as being a problem (more than just eating a sandwich). Apparently they frequently try to eat things like pasta that require utensils. This means the driver has to balance a plate in her lap and use a fork, all while trying to steer. They frequently spill food, which causes another distraction. While they all acknowledge that this is a bad idea, they do not anticipate changing their behavior or their menu choices."

Read the entire report here.

Please read more in our BLOG.

See tools for a safer teen driving experience in our Safety Store.


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