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Traffic Inj Prev. 2006 Sep;7(3):224-31.

Parental supervision of teenage drivers in a graduated licensing system.

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University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.



Most states now have lengthy learner periods for young, beginning drivers as part of their graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems. Although parents play a vital role during the learner stage of GDL by supervising driving practice, virtually nothing is known about the nature and quality of parental supervision. The objectives of this study were to investigate parents' supervisory behavior and parent-teen relationships during the learner stage of graduated licensing and to evaluate two approaches for assisting parents in supervising their teenager's early driving experience.


Families of teenagers applying for a learner permit received either a booklet describing highly structured practice sessions for beginning drivers, a series of "tip sheets" offering more generalized guidance, or no special materials. Questionnaires were sent separately to parents and teenagers three to six months after teenagers obtained their permit.


Of 1,190 participating families, 653 parents (55%) and 609 teenagers (51%) responded. Both parents and teenagers perceived parents as supportive and helpful during driving sessions. Parents often demonstrated positive behaviors, such as complimenting their teenager and pointing out possible hazards; they also exhibited less desirable behaviors, such as raising their voice, but these were less frequent. A majority of parents (71%) and teenagers (52%) reported that they enjoyed spending this time together. About four months after obtaining a permit, most parents believed their teenager did not yet have enough experience and was not ready to drive unsupervised. Although the reported behaviors are encouraging, within-family agreement was low on most items. Finally, efforts to assist parents proved unsuccessful. Although parents thought the booklet and tip sheets were helpful, most used these materials only in a general way.


The extended learning experience required by GDL programs is a positive experience for many families. However, finding a method for helping parents achieve maximum benefits during this process will be challenging. The results also suggest that current requirements in the learner phase of most state GDL systems (six months; 30-50 hours) may be inadequate to ensure that teenagers obtain a sufficient amount of experience to begin driving safely on their own.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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