Researchers at the University of Iowa are recruiting kids — and their parents — for a study designed to improve the communication process as the teen learns to drive. Lisa Roth, research coordinator at the U-of-I’s Injury Prevention Research Center, says teen drivers are at the highest risk of getting into crashes, especially during the first six months of driving. Roth hopes the study can help to change that.
“What we’ll do is work with both the parent and the teen to work on these communication strategies,” Roth says. “It’s called motivational interviewing. What we like to do is work with teens and parents to really improve that communication. It’s more of an active listening type of exercise that parents do and then they’re giving feedback to their teen as they learn to drive.”
Roth’s department is working on the study in conjunction with the National Advanced Driving Simulator, also based in Iowa City. She notes the study will -not- be using driving simulators, but real cars on the open road. “We have a workbook that they go through and we’re actually doing the lessons in the vehicle as the teen is learning how to drive,” Roth says. “Basically, the parent is talking about a safety lesson, then they’re showing the teen the safety lesson and then the teen basically repeats or practices back.”
She says the goal is to maximize a teen’s experience in the car while minimizing the risk. “It can be very nerve-wracking for a parent to get in the car with a new driver,” Roth says. “What we’re hoping we can do is make it a little less of a scary situation but also improve the communication so it doesn’t become a tense situation between the parent and the teen as they’re learning some of these new skills as they learn to drive.”
To be eligible, Roth is looking for parents and their teens who were born between May 15 and August 31, 1994, who are about to get their intermediate driver’s licenses. The study is being coordinated at two locations, in Iowa City and in Des Moines. For information, call Roth at (319) 467-4504 or email her at: “[email protected]”.