A Holistic Approach to Reducing Adolescent Risky Behavior: Combining Driving Performance Measures with Psychological and Neurobiological Measures of Risky Adolescent Behavior


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National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence


Adolescent drivers are one of the age groups with the highest crash risks due to factors such as inexperience and poor judgment, an increased propensity for risk-taking, and a higher likelihood to engage in secondary tasks. Previous research has indicated that there may be correlations between teen risky driving behaviors and health risk behaviors such as substance use. Therefore, it is important to understand if there is a relationship between adolescent risky behaviors and unsafe driving outcomes. To investigate this, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) partnered with the Virginia Tech JK Lifespan Development Lab to conduct a pilot study. During this study, 17 novice teen drivers within 1 month of obtaining their provisional license who were also participating in the Neurobehavioral Determinants of Health-Related Behaviors (NDHRB) Study were recruited. Participants’ personal vehicles were instrumented with VTTI’s mini-data acquisition system, which collected driving performance and behavior data. Data was collected over a 6-month period and analyzed for kinematic risky driving events, eye-glance behavior, secondary task engagement, and seatbelt use. This data was combined with the psychosocial/neurobiological data collected from the surveys, questionnaires, and tests during the NDHRB study. Correlations were discovered between risky driving behaviors (kinematic risky driving events, eye-glance behaviors, secondary task engagement and cellphone use, and proper seatbelt use), and psychosocial/neurobiological measures (reported substance use, insula activation during a lottery task, general health self-assessment, Domain-Specific Risk-Taking Scale health safety risk, health risk behavior, and self-reported risk). The results from this pilot study were promising and point to the need for future research into teen risky behaviors, either driving or otherwise, to create countermeasures to reduce teen crash rates.



transportation safety, naturalistic driving study, teen driver safety, teen risky behavior