12:28pm Wednesday 16 October 2019

University of Iowa targets parents' role in teen driver safety

A new University of Iowa study involving investigators from the UI College of Public Health Injury Prevention Research Center and the UI Public Policy Center will evaluate the major role that parents play in promoting safer driving among teenagers.

Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for adolescents, and teen drivers are at a greater risk of injury and death than all other age groups, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Parents play a critical role in the driving experience of their children,” said Corinne Peek-Asa, Ph.D., UI professor of occupational and environmental health in the College of Public Health. “The evidence shows that almost 90 percent of teens have a parent involved in the process of learning to drive, but conversations about driving are among the most stressful between parent and teen. Parents who communicate effectively have teens who are more likely to use seat belts and practice safe driving behavior.”

She said distractions inside and outside of the vehicle, such as other passengers or cell phone use, place young drivers at increased risk, and effective teen-parent communication about such safety issues may help to reduce risky behaviors.

The new research study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, uses a variety of techniques to help parents improve the safety of their children learning to drive, including in-vehicle, event-triggered video recorders to document driving activities and weekly report cards to parents.

“Video feedback technologies are successful in reducing safety-relevant events among novice drivers,” said Daniel McGehee, Ph.D., director of the UI Public Policy Center’s Human Factors and Vehicle Safety Research Program and adjunct associate professor in the Colleges of Engineering and Public Health.

McGehee said that information gathered from the study has the potential to save lives, given the high rate of fatalities resulting from teenage driving errors. According to U.S.News and World Report, Iowa ranked 49th in the U.S. when taking into account teen driving safety statistics and overall driving safety conditions.

“Involved parents can lower teens’ crash risk by half,” McGehee said. “One of our recent studies found that the riskiest teenage drivers have 88 percent fewer safety-related events when they receive video feedback and a weekly report card. We can prevent crashes and improve teen driver safety.”

For more information about the study to improve teen driving, contact 319-384-2860 or 1-877-611-4971.

To learn more about teen driver safety or the Public Policy Center, visit http://ppc.uiowa.edu/hf.

Information on the Injury Prevention Research Center can be found at http://www.public-health.uiowa.edu/iprc/.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications and External Relations, 4257 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242

MEDIA CONTACT: Bill Barker, william-barker@uiowa.edu, 319-384-4277

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