By Jennifer Myers
Research that could drive policy changes to reduce the risk of crashes among teen drivers received a $1.2 million boost from AUTO21 Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE), a major funder of research in Canada’s automotive sector.
“We would love to tell parents that the policies in place are good ones and that they can use them when their kids are learning to drive,” says Jeff Caird, professor of psychology and adjunct professor in community health science. “We hope we can influence those policies to make them even better.”
Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death among 16- to 25-year olds, and cost hundreds of billions of dollars in damage and lost lives every year.
Caird will conduct meta-analyses—which combine results from many studies—to determine contributing factors to collisions among young drivers. The information he collects will be used to develop and evaluate countermeasures.
Caird believes that one major influence on the performance of teen drivers is their passengers.
“We already know it depends on who the passengers are,” says Caird. “When it’s mom or dad, the driver’s performance is good, but crash risk increases when more kids are in the car. Male drivers with male peers in the car frequently perform badly.”
Alberta is one of a few Canadian provinces not restricting the number of passengers allowed to accompany new drivers as part of its Graduated Driver Licensing program.
“We’re still learning which combination of factors contributes to crashes in this age group such as risk taking, inexperience and distraction,” says Caird. “Our analyses will provide much stronger evidence for policy decisions such as placing further restrictions on graduated licensing.”
“Graduated licensing has had enormous success. It has saved tens of thousands of lives and reduced the risks associated with learning to drive.”
Caird’s studies are part of the Convergent Evidence from Naturalistic, Simulation and Epidemiology Data (CENSED) network—which he co-leads—and is one of 40 networks funded by the AUTO21 NCE, with total funding of $22 million. The CENSED network works to reduce motor vehicle collisions through applied research, policy development, transfer of knowledge, technology innovation, and service creation transmitted to governments and corporations.