September 1, 2008
Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of teen deaths in the US. In 2006, motor vehicle accidents resulted in the deaths of 61 Arkansas teens—double the national average. The Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children’s Hospital has the mission to reduce child injury, death, and disability in Arkansas through service, education, innovative research, and advocacy. Through the Building Consensus for Safer Teen Driving program, an IPC research team is evaluating the effectiveness of a parent/teen driving contract in reducing preventable motor vehicle-related injuries in young drivers and passengers. This program aims to help parents and teens develop skills to negotiate a family-based graduated driving contract. Shawlonda and her son Michael, who had recently received his learner’s permit, saw a flyer about the program at the Adolescent Center at ACH. They spoke to their physician about the teen driving study. Shawlonda contacted the IPC, and she and Michael joined the study. The mother and son were assigned to the study’s intervention group. They attended a two-hour training workshop on motor vehicle safety. The information discussed the consequences of unsafe vehicle operation and strategies to improve driver and passenger safety. After the attending the workshop, the parent-child pairs generated a parent/teen driving contract at home and received emails with driver and passenger safety information. (A comparison group did not attend the workshop session but did receive the safety and contract information given to the intervention group.) The research team is following up with all study families after 3 month, 6 months, and one year to inquire about the contract, driving restrictions, and adherence to the parent-teen agreements. “Developing the contract was easy for us,” says Shawlonda. “Michael understands that it is a privilege. He does not have a right to drive.” Their contract includes the hours Michael can drive and plotting his routes between home, school, and work. For example, he comes straight home after work. If he is going to the movies or some other activity, Michael and his parents determine times and locations he can drive. The contract also addresses the number passengers Michael can have in the car: 1 passenger except when he’s taking his brother to school. Concerning cell phone usage, Michael cannot use the cell phone while driving—he must pull over. Infractions of the contract agreements result in Michael losing privileges and, depending on the severity, may result in loss of his vehicle. Michael concurs that it was easy to create the contract. Concerning the agreements it contains, he says. “I know my limits and places I can go.” The information he received at the workshop swayed him to work on the contract with his mother. Michael thinks the parent/teen driving contract is a good program. “They should push the information out there,” Michael says. “They could put it in place in schools and football games—tell us and promote it.” The program also had an impact on Shawlonda’s driving as well. “It brought to my attention some things I wasn’t doing anymore,” she says. More importantly, she says though, “It opened communication between us.” The Building Consensus for Safer Teen Driving program is funded by the Allstate Foundation via the National Program Office of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids. Dr. Mary E. Aitken, the project’s principal investigator and Medical Director of the IPC, and her team are working with other Injury Free programs to increase collaborative Teen driver Michael says that creating parent/teen driving contract with his mother was easy. research and programs in this area of national interest. The researcher team will also be involved with National Safe Teen Driving Week, October 19 through 25, a weeklong event that began last year. For more information about the IPC and its activities, contact the center at (501) 364-3400.
Safe Teen Driving Coordinator