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Driver Education Not as Likely to Curb Risky Behavior

Behind the Wheel as a Speeding Ticket

CHICAGO - Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15-20 year olds in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

New research examining the literature on what works in changing driving behavior found that educating youths about good driving behavior and traffic safety is not enough to change bad driving. The threat of severe penalties is also needed to keep teenagers safe behind the wheel, according to a review of over 54 studies. These findings will be presented at the 105th American Psychological Association's (APA) Annual Convention in Chicago.

"What we found in this comprehensive review," said researcher John R. Mattox,II, M.S., from the University of Memphis, "is that preventative measures like driver education, curfews and raising the drinking age are not enough to change bad driving behaviors without also including the threat of getting a ticket or losing your license. What really improves driving behaviors and traffic safety among youth is using a combination of both interventions. An example of this could be a public education and information campaign paired with a zero tolerance DWI enforcement campaign."

"It appears through the analysis of all the studies reviewed that the most effective programs instructed the youths how theyshould or should not drive and enforced consequences for inappropriate behaviors. The best interventions included minimum drinking age and blood alcohol concentration laws, curfews and delayed licensure laws. Graduated licensing (experience and competency are rewarded with more driving freedom until a full,unrestricted license is obtained) also was found effective in reducing risky driving behavior," said Mattox.

Those interventions that actively involved young drivers in learning, according to the review, were better at influencing some changes in knowledge, attitudes and sometimes behavior than the interventions that just provided information on safe driving. For example, "young drivers who participated in certain driver-education courses learned more demonstrable driving skills than those who didn't take the course. Role-playing and intervention¨oriented classes helped the youths develop skills to resist pressures to drink and drive, to resist riding with a drinking driver and to help prevent their friends from driving after drinking."

Some of the antecedent interventions (primary prevention strategies that attempt to influence behaviors before they occur) used were: awareness campaigns, education, peer pressure, parental involvement and social norms. Their goal was to make young drivers (15-20 year olds) aware of the dangerous environment in which they will be driving and also be aware of their own risk-taking behaviors.

Some of the consequence interventions (penalties that occur after a behavior has occurred, like police enforcement of illegal driving activities (speeding tickets, DWI) examined in the literature review were: accelerated penalties, court-ordered driver improvement programs, conviction and crash-free period prior to full licensing, drinking and driving rehabilitation programs.

Presentation: "A Review of Interventions to Increase Driving Safety Among Teenagers," John R. Mattox, II, M.A., University of Memphis. Session 4233, Monday, August 18, 1997, 2:00 - 2:50 pm, Hyatt Regency Chicago, Haymarket Room.

(Full text available from the APA Public Affairs Office.)

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington,DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world'slargest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 151,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 50 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 58 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.

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