2017-2018 Research Project

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

Principal Investigator
Arthur Goodwin
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
View Bio

Research Brief


North Carolina has led the way in policy efforts to address teen driver crashes with graduated driver licensing (GDL), which has reduced crashes by 38 percent among 16-year-olds and by 13 percent among 17-year-olds. However, important elements have been missing from the state’s efforts to improve young driver safety. Although parents are expected to play a key role in helping their teens learn to drive, they receive almost no sound guidance for what to do or how to do it.

Parents are involved in many different aspects of the licensing process. They influence the timing of licensure, supervise their teens’ early driving experience, influence choice of vehicles, are the primary enforcers of their teens’ license restrictions, and may further limit driving conditions or extend limits beyond what the state requires.

The objective of this project is to develop, test, and implement a comprehensive program to provide guidance to parents of new drivers in North Carolina. The aim is to provide critical guidance to parents at the various points in time when this guidance is most needed. The guidance developed during the project will include:

  • An in-person parent coaching session that encourages parents to provide their teens 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 form for 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.
  • A smartphone app that assists and encourages diversified practice during supervised driving.
  • Tools for parents, such as an inventory they can use to assess their teen’s readiness to drive without supervision and to determine the types of settings/environments in which the teen still needs practice.
  • A written driving agreement, to be developed by parents and teens together at the outset of the intermediate licensing stage, that reflects expectations for both teens and parents.

We will work with key agencies in North Carolina including driver education, DMV, and the Child Fatality Task Force to provide the above resources to all parents of new teen (< 18) drivers. We plan to implement the less labor intensive elements quickly and statewide. The more labor intensive pieces (parent sessions) will initially be deployed in a few pilot counties so that formative evaluation can be quickly undertaken.

Data sources for the formative evaluation will consist of key informant interviews (especially state, regional and local DMV officials), and telephone interviews with parents and teens.

The primary outcome of this project will be a comprehensive program to assist parents of beginning drivers in North Carolina, along with a series of formative evaluation findings. This will be the first such program in the nation, which could serve as a model for other states (as our GDL system has).

Project Details

Project Type: Research
Project Status: Active
Start Date: 3-1-2017
End Date: 12-31-2019
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