Learning to drive can be difficult — for teenagers and their parents. But with car crashes still leading the cause of death for teens, researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia are looking into ways of improving the education process.
To figure out what might be going wrong when student drivers are at the wheel, the team interviewed more than 100 parents whose children were about to take their permit tests.
Jessica Mirman, an applied developmental psychologist at CHOP, said they then came up with a Web-based tool — complete with 53 videos and a practice planner — for parents to create a better learning environment in the car.
“That includes keeping calm, making sure teens understand it’s about safety and not control, and responding to mistakes in a constructive way,” she said.
The training gave parents specific ideas for helping their kids to master important skills, such as changing lanes or scanning for road hazards, as well as preparing them for common mistakes.
When Mirman tested how well the Teen Driving Plan, or TDP, worked in a group of about 200 16- and 17-year-olds, she found young drivers who participated in the program logged more practice hours in more diverse conditions. They were also 65 percent less likely to fail a driving test than their peers who had only the state of Pennsylvania driver’s manual.
“Parents can make a difference when it comes to supervising their teens’ practice driving,” said Mirman. “When doing so, parents need to keep in mind it’s not just about the quantity of hours, but it’s also about the quality of those hours as well.”
The results have been published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics and funded by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. Dave Phillips, a representative of the company, said its online Road Trips program is based on the TDP.
Next up, Mirman said, is figuring out how to achieve similar success when parents might not have the time to be so involved.