Orientation Sessions for Parents of Young Novice Drivers: An Assessment of U.S. Programs and Recommendations

Based on a review of existing programs and the available scientific literature, this project provides recommendations to enhance parent orientation sessions that are part of the teen driver training and licensing process.

May 2018

Suggested Citation

For media inquiries, contact:

Tamra Johnson
202-942-2079
TRJohnson@national.aaa.com

Authors

Arthur H. Goodwin

Stephanie Harrell

Robert Foss

Natalie P. O’Brien

Bevan B. Kirley

Yudan Wang

Introduction

The role of parents in the licensing process has expanded greatly since the arrival of graduated driver licensing (GDL). Lengthy learner stages, supervised hours requirements and driving restrictions have created new responsibilities for parents that did not exist 20 years ago. A growing body of research has investigated how parents handle these responsibilities. In many cases, parents do not have a clear understanding of what, where and when teens should be practicing. With respect to GDL restrictions, parents show good awareness and understanding of the nighttime and passenger restrictions; however, the limits imposed by parents often lack strictness, focus on less important safety concerns and are not sustained.

Given the current shortcomings in parents’ supervision and management of young novice drivers, many researchers have pointed to the need to assist parents with this responsibility. In recent years many states, local jurisdictions, and private and nonprofit organizations have created programs intended to provide guidance to parents of new drivers. “Parent orientation sessions,” where parents (and sometimes teens) attend an in-person meeting, have become especially popular. Although such programs are becoming commonplace, few have been rigorously evaluated. The objectives of the present project were to: 1) select promising parent orientation sessions for comprehensive assessment, and 2) prepare recommendations that states and other jurisdictions can use in implementing or improving orientation sessions for parents of new drivers.

Key Findings

Nine recommendations were provided for states and other jurisdictions that currently provide — or are planning to implement — an orientation session for parents of new drivers. These recommendations included:

(1) be evidence-based and grounded in research
(2) provide clear guidance for parent action
(3) have repeated contacts with parents
(4) incorporate principles of adult learning
(5) explain the rationale for GDL and the role of parents
(6) be designed and conducted by individuals outside the driver education system
(7) have systems in place to ensure the program is standardized and delivered consistently
(8) evaluate outcomes
(9) mandate parent attendance

Methodology

Following a nationwide review of programs, nine were selected for an in-depth assessment. This assessment considered program history, the extent of audience coverage, content and delivery, efforts to ensure program fidelity, and any existing evaluations. Program strengths and weaknesses were noted.

Suggested Citation

For media inquiries, contact:

Tamra Johnson
202-942-2079
TRJohnson@national.aaa.com

Authors

Arthur H. Goodwin

UNC Highway Safety Research Center

Stephanie Harrell

UNC Highway Safety Research Center

Robert Foss

UNC Highway Safety Research Center

Natalie P. O’Brien

UNC Highway Safety Research Center

Bevan B. Kirley

UNC Highway Safety Research Center

Yudan Wang