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Young driver distraction: state of the evidence and directions for behavior change programs

In: Journal of Adolescent Health, volume 54, number 5, supplement, May 2014, pp. S16-S21

Authors: Lisa Buckley, Rebekah L. Chapman, Mary Sheehan

Adolescent drivers are overrepresented in distraction-related motor vehicle crashes. A number of potential reasons for such an elevated risk include driving inexperience, high adoption of communication technology, increased peer involvement, and tendency to take risks, which render young drivers particularly vulnerable. Major legislative efforts in Graduated Licensing Systems that include passenger restrictions have shown positive effects. Restrictions on cell phone use are also being introduced; however, it is challenging to enforce such regulations. This article argues that such contextual, legislative interventions are an essential prevention strategy, but there is an unfilled need to introduce behavior change programs that may target adolescents, parents, and friends. A theoretical framework is applied in which risk and protective factors are identified from research within the contexts of community and jurisdiction. In the literature on distraction, social context and normative influences are key elements used to inform program design for adolescent drivers, with parental monitoring informing interventions targeting parents. Following from this assessment of the message content assessment, the design of strategies to deliver the messages is reviewed. In the current literature, school-based programs, simulations, and Web-delivered programs have been evaluated with supplementary strategies delivered by physicians and parents. Such developments are still at an early stage of development, and ultimately will need controlled implementation and evaluation studies. Of course, there is no likely single approach to prevent adolescent driver distraction. Complementary approaches such as the further development of technological interventions to manage phone use are needed.