Technology, Parent-Teen Teamwork Improve Safety of Young Drivers

Technology and legislation alone have done little to solve the problem of teen deaths due to motor vehicle accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that seven teens aged 16 to 19 die daily in car crashes. Recently, American Friends of Tel Aviv University shared information from the University’s research regarding a twofold approach to improving teen driver safety with a combination of technology and parental intervention. This research was headed by Prof. Haim Omer of Tel Aviv University’s School of Psychological Sciences and conducted by Dr. Yaara Shimshoni in collaboration with the Association for Safer Driving in Israel’s Or Yarok.

Professor Omer says, “We have shown that it is possible to reduce dangerous driving in young drivers by increasing parental involvement in a positive way. Our program is based on a model of parental involvement called ‘Vigilant Care,” shown to be effective in reducing risky behavior exhibited in other fields. According to this model, parents remain non-invasively involved in their youngsters’ activities, but are poised to increase their level of involvement at the first signs of danger.”

In preparation for the study, some parents were trained in the “Vigilant Care” program, learning proper intervention skills as well as ways to provide a nurturing environment in which to provide guidance.

In-Vehicle Data Recorders (IVDRs) were installed for the study in cars belonging to 242 families. The recorders monitor and give feedback in real time on risk patterns in the vehicles. The families were divided into four groups depending on type of IVDR feedback and parental intervention levels: 1) IVDR feedback to the entire family leading to parental intervention through “Vigilant Care” training 2) IVDR feedback to the entire family with no parental intervention 3) IVDR feedback with no parental guidance 4) no IVDR feedback and no parental involvement.

One example of involvement requires a teen to text parents when arriving at a destination and again before midnight, ensuring the parents remain on the young driver’s mind. This is a protective mechanism involved in “Vigilant Care.” Parents also have “driving chats” with their teen weekly, planning new trips. These strategies ensure the teen is reminded of their parents while driving. One young driver said, “I felt as though someone was sitting by my side, even though I was alone in the car.”

After three months of monitoring, researchers found that “Vigilant Care” groups with IVDR had significant driving improvements. A combination of technology and parental intervention proved the most effective for drivers with the riskiest behaviors.

Dr. Shimshoni said, “We have shown that the combination of technology and ‘Vigilant Care’ can meet the challenge of dangerous teen driving. This is the first study in which a systematic, theory-based intervention for parental involvement in teen driving was found to be effective.”

Due to the success of the study, Omer and Yorok are attempting to find ways to apply “Vigilant Care” programs appropriate for different age groups and populations.

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