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Traffic Inj Prev. 2016;17(2):122-7. doi: 10.1080/15389588.2015.1045063. Epub 2015 Jun 4.

A qualitative study of college students' perceptions of risky driving and social influences.

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a Department of Behavioral and Community Health , University of Maryland School of Public Health , College Park , Maryland.



Young adults and teens are documented as the riskiest drivers on the road, and newer issues such as texting and driving are a growing concern. This study sought to determine the risk perceptions of young adults regarding various driving behaviors, their past experiences, how their social circles are structured, and how this might affect their driving.


This study conducted qualitative research with 25 college undergraduate students to determine their peer and social influences regarding distracted driving. Data were analyzed and related to the health belief model and past research on social influence.


Though most participants felt that their behaviors were set after learning to drive, they were, in fact, quite susceptible to the influence of those in their social circles (e.g., fear of judgment and accountability) and, more broadly, to social norms. Texting and driving was the largest and most topical distracted driving issue and was also identified as very difficult to stop due to perceived barriers and the idea that intervening is rude. Participants identified low perceived susceptibility and severity (perceived threat) for a number of risky driving behaviors, including texting and driving.


Training is needed to encourage people to intervene and speak up regarding behaviors other than drinking and driving, and cues to action and campaigns should target intervention to increase self-efficacy, as well as norms, susceptibility, and common rationalizations for risky behavior.


young driver perceptions, social influences, risky driving, distracted driving, texting and driving

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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