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Am J Prev Med. 2008 Sep;35(3 Suppl):S289-93. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2008.06.017.

Adolescents, peers, and motor vehicles: the perfect storm?

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Department of Psychology, University of Virginia-Charlottesville, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA.


Motor-vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among teenagers and in many instances appear linked to negative peer influences on adolescent driving behavior. This article examines a range of developmental and structural factors that potentially increase the risks associated with adolescent driving. Developmental risk factors for adolescents include a propensity toward engaging in deviant and risky behavior, a desire to please peers, and the potential cost to an adolescent of alienating peers with his or her behavior while driving. Structural features of the driving situation that create risks for negative peer influences on driving behavior include the inability of adolescents to look at peers who may be pressuring them, divided attention, the need to behave in a conventional manner among peers who may not value conventional behavior, and the lack of accountability by peers for the effects of any risky driving they promote. A range of potential peer influences are considered, including passive and active distraction and direct disruption of driving, as well as more positive influences, such as peer modeling of good driving behavior and positive reinforcement of good driving. Although the range of risk factors created by peers is large, this range presents a number of promising targets for intervention to improve teen driving safety.

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