2017-2018 Completed Research Project

Development of Resources to Guide Parents in Helping Teens Learn to Drive

Principal Investigator
Arthur Goodwin
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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Full Report

Research Brief

Project Slide Deck


The objective of this project was to develop a comprehensive program to support parents of new drivers in North Carolina. This system would provide critical guidance to parents at various points in the licensing process when this guidance is most needed. In their review of parent-focused interventions, Curry et al. (2015) argue that comprehensive programs are needed that guide families through the entire licensing process. To our knowledge, no U.S. state or jurisdiction has created a comprehensive system to support parents throughout the GDL process.

The Time to Drive program includes:

Driver education:

  • A parent coaching session that encourages parents to provide their teen with a substantial amount of driving practice in a wide variety of settings, and that helps parents better communicate with their teen during supervised driving.
  • A debriefing meeting with driver education instructors to inform parents of the progress and proficiency of their teen driver, and to remind parents of their role and responsibility in helping their teen to become a safe driver.

Supervised driving:

  • A smartphone app that assists and encourages diversified practice.
  • A competency assessment tool that helps parents gauge a teen’s readiness to drive independently, and to determine the types of settings/environments in which the teen still needs practice.

Provisional license:

  • A driving agreement that clarifies the roles and expectations for both parents and teens during independent driving.
  • Resources to assist parents with enforcing GDL nighttime and passenger restrictions.
  • A worksheet with recommendations and resources for choosing a safe vehicle for a novice teen driver.

All stages:

  • A network of Teen Driver Safety technicians across the state who would facilitate Time to Drive parent orientation sessions and provide one-on-one personalized assistance to parents of new drivers.

The comprehensive program developed in this project has several important strengths. First, the program is grounded in research. Previous studies have identified shortcomings in parental supervisory practices. The Time to Drive program is designed to address those shortcomings by using evidence-based tools to improve how parents supervise and manage a new teen driver. Also, the program focuses on a few key behavioral goals: ensuring teens get considerable driving experience in a wide variety of situations during the learner stage; helping parents communicate with their teen, especially regarding higher-order driving skills; and encouraging families to choose a safe vehicle for their teen. These same behavioral goals are emphasized during multiple contacts with parents. For example, the importance of substantial and diversified practice is emphasized in the initial parent coaching session, the meetings with driver education instructors, and the smartphone app. Clear behavioral goals and repeated contacts are key to promoting behavior change and achieving desired outcomes (Goodwin et al., 2018). Finally, the program uses principles of adult learning, emphasizing active learning methods such as discussion, problem-solving and practice.


  • Goodwin, A. (2017, April). Improving teen driver safety through parents of new teen drivers. Presented at the North Carolina Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association Annual Conference, Clemmons, North Carolina.
  • Goodwin, A. (2017, March). Light the fire: How to reach and engage parents of novice drivers. Presented at the Lifesavers Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • Goodwin, A. H. (2019). GDL effectiveness: Engage parents, strengthen laws. [Presentation]. Lifesavers Annual Conference, Louisville, KY.
  • Goodwin, A.H. & Robison, K. (2019, August). Time to drive: A new program to help parents of teenage drivers in North Carolina. NC Traffic Safety Conference & Expo. Raleigh, NC.
  • Goodwin, A.H. (2019, April). Young drivers today: Where do we go from here? Lifesavers Conference on Highway Safety Priorities. Louisville, KY.
  • Goodwin, A.H. (2019, July). Parents of new drivers: Helpful or hopeless?63rd Annual ADTSEA Conference. Burlington, VT).
  • Goodwin, A.H. (2019, June). Young driver trends and implications for policy. TRB Young Driver Subcommittee midyear meeting. Woods Hole, MA.
  • Goodwin, A.H. What works (and what doesn’t) to improve teen driver safety. Presented at the Child Fatality Prevention System Summit. Raleigh, NC, 2018.Goodwin,A.H. Enforcement with teenage drivers. Presented at the NC Traffic Safety Conference and Expo. Wilmington, NC, 2018.
  • Goodwin, A.H., Harrell, S., O’Brien, N.P., Kirley, B.B., & Foss, R.D. (2018). Orientation sessions for parents of young novice drivers: An assessment of U.S. programs and recommendations. Washington, D.C.: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
  • O’Brien, N., & Goodwin, A. H. (2019). A comprehensive program to support parents of new drivers in North Carolina. [Presentation]. North Carolina Driver Education Advisory Committee, Raleigh, NC.

Project Details

Project Type: Research
Project Status: Completed
Start Date: 3-1-2017
End Date: 3-31-2021
Contract Year: Year 1, Year2
Total Funding from CSCRS: $354,000
Co-sponsors:  North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program
Collaborating Organizations: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill