Original Article

Teen Driving Education in a Pediatric Emergency Department: Effectiveness of a Toolkit

Authors: Zoza Grace Spears, MD, Brittany Schoen, BSN, RN, Tiffany Thompson, RN, BSN, Michele Nichols, MD, William King, MPH, DrPH, Kathy Monroe, MD


Objectives: In the United States, the leading cause of death for adolescents aged 16 to 24 years is motor vehicle crashes, with Alabama ranked as the second-worst state in the nation for teen driving deaths. We sought to determine the efficacy of teenage driving education within the setting of the pediatric emergency department and to assess the driving habits of teenagers and their parents and their understanding of the Alabama Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) law.

Methods: Surveys were administered to noncritically ill teenagers aged 13 to 19 years and their parents who presented to the children’s emergency department. Participation was voluntary and anonymous. Presurveys were administered to assess driving habits and knowledge. Intervention was then given in the form of a “safe driving toolkit,” followed by postsurveys to measure educational outcomes. Pre- and postsurvey data were then analyzed and compared using Epistat.

Results: A total of 41 parents, 2 grandparents, and 45 teenagers were enrolled in this study. An additional 47 teenagers answered a single curfew question at a teen driving event. Of all of the participants, 63% had never heard of the Alabama GDL law, and of that 63%, 37% had been enrolled in a driver’s education course. A χ2 analysis revealed no significant difference between parents and teenagers having taken a driver’s education course. Of the participants, 22% responded that they knew the specifics of the Alabama GDL law, with only 1 correct on all 3 counts. The most common item missed was the curfew for teenagers, with 4 believing it to be 8 pm, 14 believing it to be 9 pm, 23 believing it to be 10 pm, and 7 believing it to be 11 pm. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents correctly answered that there was to be no cellular telephone use while driving for teenagers with a GDL. More than 97.2% of participants, both parents and teens, reported learning new information from this study.

Conclusions: The majority of participants enrolled were not aware of the Alabama GDL law, which has been in place since 2002. More than 97% of those surveyed were given new information during the education session. There is a strong need for further public education regarding the law and safe driving habits. Sixty-one percent of respondents believe that the teen curfew is earlier than the present curfew. The authors believe that this shows support for revising the curfew in the present law to an earlier time. Nighttime driving restrictions starting at 10 pm or earlier have been shown to result in greater reductions in motor vehicle crashes involving teenagers. Our study affirmed that teen driving education within the pediatric emergency department setting is efficacious.

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