To Help Keep Teen Drivers Safe, Focus On The Learner Period


teen drivers

PHILADELPHIA--June 23, 2014: Research released today by the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) found that TeenDrivingPlan (TDP), a web-based intervention designed to help parents more effectively supervise driving practice, improved the driving performance of pre-licensed teenagers. The research, published in JAMA Pediatrics, involved five years of formative research followed by a randomized, controlled trial of young drivers and their parent supervisors.

Youth with learner's permits who were assigned to use TDP over a 24-week period were 65 percent less likely to fail a rigorous on-road driving assessment administered prior to licensure compared to those who followed a usual practice "control" condition. Overall, six percent of the pre-licensed teenagers in the TDP group had their on-road driving assessment terminated due to unsafe driving performance as compared to 15 percent of those in the control group. Families who used TDP also reported more driving practice in various environments, at night, and in bad weather.

A corresponding CHOP research article, published this month in the Journal of Adolescent Health, examined how TDP exerted its effect on driver performance and found that both greater quantity and variety of practice were associated with better driving performance, but only the latter was impacted by TDP. Additionally, families in the TDP group reported greater parent engagement and support.

"We saw an opportunity to improve young drivers' safety by focusing our research and development efforts on the learner phase to increase the amount and quality of driving experience before they become licensed," says Jessica H. Mirman, PhD, lead author of the study and a developmental psychologist at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) at CHOP. This research was funded by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State FarmŽ).

"Supervised practice during the permit phase is a common provision of Graduated Driver Licensing programs in most states, yet there is a lack of evidence-based interventions available to support families," says Dr. Mirman. "Evidence-based interventions like TeenDrivingPlan can address this problem by helping busy parents make the most of supervised practice time."

TDP is an interactive web-based program for parent practice driving supervisors. It supports three main activities for families: (1) Learning, (2) Planning, (3) Practice, and (4) Logging and Rating. The learning component of TDP features 53 brief videos to guide parents in creating a positive learning environment in the car and to help them structure practice activities across a variety of driving environments (e.g., highways, commercial districts). The planning component of TDP features an interactive practice planner that helps families select concrete goals for each practice session. The logging and rating tool helps families keep track of practice hours and collect information on goal performance, providing them with an easy way to monitor both practice time and skill development. Components of TDP will be available later this year on teendriversource.org.

TDP is based on previous CHOP research that characterized strengths and weaknesses of parents' supervision of practice driving, parents' and teens' perceptions of factors that can increase parents' engagement over the length of the permit period, and formative research on usability and acceptability. The goal of TDP is to increase the quantity and variety of parent-supervised practice to develop teenagers' driving skills before licensure.

A third CHOP analysis, published in Injury Prevention, used state-of-the-art web analytics to examine TDP use in detail and its association with practice variety. Future CHOP studies will further explore ways to enhance TDP's positive effects on young driver performance and supervised practice to develop teenagers' driving skills before licensure.

To learn more about CHOP's TeenDrivingPlan research, visit teendriversource.org.

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