New Teen Drivers Benefit From Practice Quantity, Variety

Jun 25 2014

New Teen Drivers Benefit From Practice Quantity, Variety

When a teen learning to drive sits behind the wheel with sweaty palms, it is often up to the parent to keep their child calm and focused on the road. But how can parents prepare to steer these driving lessons in the right direction?

Research released by the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that TeenDrivingPlan (TDP), a web-based intervention designed to help parents more effectively supervise driving practice, improved the driving performance of pre-licensed teenagers. Inexperience is a contributing factor in car crashes involving novice drivers.

“Supervised practice during the permit phase is a common provision of Graduated Driver Licensing programs in most states, yet there is a lack of evidence-based interventions available to support families,” said Jessica H. Mirman, PhD, lead author of the study and a CIRP developmental psychologist. “Evidence-based interventions like TeenDrivingPlan can address this problem by helping busy parents make the most of supervised practice time.”

The goal of TDP is to increase the quantity and variety of parent-supervised practice to develop teenagers’ driving skills before licensure. It offers three main activities for families:

  1. Learning: 53 brief videos guide parents in creating a positive learning environment in the car and provide structure for practice activities across multiple driving environments — from rainy highways to sunny country roads
  2. Planning: helps families to select concrete goals for each practice session
  3. Logging and rating: tracks practice hours and collects information on goal performance.

The research, published in JAMA Pediatrics, involved five years of formative research followed by a randomized, controlled trial of 151 young drivers and their parent supervisors. Youth with learner’s permits who were assigned to use TDP over a 24-week period were 65 percent less likely to fail a rigorous on-road driving assessment administered prior to licensure compared to those who followed a usual practice “control” condition.

Overall, 6 percent of the pre-licensed teenagers in the TDP group had their on-road driving assessment terminated due to unsafe driving performance as compared to 15 percent of those in the control group. Families who used TDP also reported more driving practice in various environments, at night, and in bad weather.

A corresponding CHOP research article, published this month in the Journal of Adolescent Health, examined how TDP exerted its effect on driver performance and found that both greater quantity and variety of practice were associated with better driving performance, but TDP’s effectiveness was primarily through greater practice diversity. Additionally, families in the TDP group reported more parent engagement and support.

A third CHOP analysis, published in Injury Prevention, used state-of-the-art software to capture TDP use data, and researchers examined its association with practice diversity. The results suggest that initiatives aimed at new drivers should provide important information early in the learner period when engagement is greatest.

Future CHOP studies will further explore ways to enhance TDP’s positive effects on young driver performance and supervised practice to develop teenagers’ driving skills before licensure.

Through its multidisciplinary Teen Driver Safety Research program, the CIRP is working continually to reduce the frequency and severity of motor vehicle crashes, which remain the number one cause of death for teens.

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm®) funded this research.

To learn more about CHOP’s TeenDrivingPlan research, visit