Assisting in Program and Policy Development

Researchers at the Center for the Study of Young Drivers (CSYD) have extensive experience in traffic safety program and policy development. The CSYD can assist in creating programs and policies for your community that are most likely to increase young driver safety. To do this we will:

  • Meet with you to discuss general principles for implementing successful programs
  • Identify the most critical teen driver issues in your community using the best data available
  • Determine what programs or policies might be most useful to address these issues
  • Discuss how to overcome barriers to implementing and maintaining programs/policies

The following increase the chances a program will be successful:

Clear identification of the problem – To produce clear benefits, an intervention must successfully address a problem that is relatively common. Completely eradicating a problem that reflects a tiny fraction of teen driver risks will have almost no effect on teen crashes/injuries overall. So in deciding whether to devote time, energy and resources to an issue, it’s important to consider what proportion of the young driver crash/injury problem the intervention addresses.

Logic for intervention effect –Unsuccessful programs generally have not identified how their efforts could realistically produce the desired result. “Raising awareness” is often a program goal, but increased awareness that something is dangerous has rarely been shown to alter the behavior of individuals. For example, prohibiting the sale of alcohol at sporting events is more effective than showing messages about the risks of drinking and driving for reducing impaired driving crashes as people drive home.

Laser-sharp focus – Aim programs directly at specific behaviors, such as “high school students not wearing seatbelts in the back seat” or “teens with an intermediate license driving after 9 p.m.” Efforts to address vague, general problems (e.g., “distracted driving,” “careless behavior,” “lack of awareness”) rarely succeed in producing safer behavior. It’s much easier to design a program or policy that might affect a specific behavior (driving after 9 p.m.) than a vague one (careless driving), because the latter involves more behaviors than a single program can possibly address.

Plan for the long-term – To be successful, programs must continue, rather than being short-term efforts. To do this, they need to be institutionalized, becoming part of the fabric of life in a community and not dependomg entirely on the dedication of a few individuals, or a single funding source.

Environmental interventions – Look for opportunities to change the environment in ways that will influence large groups. This always works better than trying to convince individuals to do something differently. For example, a policy restricting nighttime driving for new teen drivers works better than trying to convince individual parents that it’s unsafe for teens to drive at night.