Influencing Teen Driving Behavior

November 18, 2009 (Updated Mar 23, 2015) by — Intended Audience: , .

Driving FastThere are two informative studies in the October issue of Pediatrics that reveal: the effects that some parenting styles can have on teen driving safety,1 as well as the increased risk associated with teens having a vehicle of which they are the primary driver.23

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The second study2 found that teens who were the main driver of a vehicle reported more than 2x the crash risk compared to teen drivers who had shared access to a vehicle. Additionally, teens who were the main driver of a vehicle reported higher likelihoods of other risky driving behaviors (e.g., using a cell phone while driving and speeding 10 or more miles over the speed limit). The take home point of this study for parents is to consider carefully the maturity level of your teenager before allowing them to be the main driver of a vehicle. In general it is probably better for teens to only have access to a shared vehicle during their first few years of driving unattended.

The other study1 looked at 4 parenting styles and their effects on teen driving safety:

  • authoritative (high support and high rules/monitoring)
  • authoritarian (low support and high rules/monitoring)
  • permissive (high support and low rules/monitoring)
  • uninvolved (low support and low rules/monitoring)

Teens with authoritative parents, in comparison with teens with uninvolved parents, reported ½ the crash risk in the past year and were 71% less likely to drive while under the influence of alcohol. Teens with authoritative parents were also less likely to use a cell phone while driving, reported using seat belts approximately 2x as much, and speeding ½ as much (as compared to teens with uninvolved parents). Though teens with authoritarian parents did report similar results regarding seat belt usage and speeding, I agree with the study’s conclusion that it is better for parents to work to have both support and structure (rules/monitoring) in their relationship with their teen.


  1. Associations Between Parenting Styles and Teen Driving, Safety-Related Behaviors and Attitudes, Pediatrics Vol. 124 No. 4 October 2009, pp. 1040-1051 (doi:10.1542/peds.2008-3037) .  
  2. Primary Access to Vehicles Increases Risky Teen Driving Behaviors and Crashes: National Perspective, Pediatrics Vol. 124 No. 4 October 2009, pp. 1069-1075 (doi:10.1542/peds.2008-3443).  
  3. Photo by Piotr Jaczewski

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