Distracted driving refers to the act of driving
while engaged in other activities - such as texting, talking on the phone or to a passenger.
Several factors contribute to the unique risk of distracted driving
teenage drivers, including limited driving experience, lower awareness
of their driving abilities and weaknesses, and an "illusion of
invincibility" that may cause them to underestimate the dangers of risky
‘After going through the "Get the Message" program, teenagers report that they will be less likely to text or make phone calls while driving.’
Incorporating developmental theories relevant to health
beliefs and social learning, the "Get the Message" program aimed to
provide information and up-close knowledge of the risks and real-life
impact of distracted driving.
This program to educate teens about distracted driving - including a tour
of a hospital trauma center and testimony from a trauma survivor - can
increase awareness of the dangers of texting, cell phone use, and other
distractions while driving, reports a study in the Journal of Trauma Nursing
After going through the "Get the Message" program, teens say
they will be less likely to text or make cell phone calls while driving,
according to the study by Ruth Adeola and colleagues of R.
Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at University of Maryland Medical
Center, Baltimore. They write, "Although teens are the least likely of
any age group to engage in healthy driving behaviors, this study
demonstrates the ability to influence teen knowledge and behavior
Program Increases 'Perceived Threat' of Distracted Driving
The study evaluated the effectiveness of the "Get the Message"
program, designed to identify, define, and measure the factors
contributing to distracted driving in adolescents. About 900 teens were
surveyed before and after completing the hospital-based injury
The program consisted of four sections, including:
- An introduction regarding the various types of
distracted driving (visual, manual, and cognitive) - focusing on the
unique risks faced by inexperienced teen drivers.
- A trauma center tour depicting the "journey" of an
injured patient - from the hospital helipad, to the trauma resuscitation
unit, to the intensive care units.
- A video depicting the physical, emotional, and mental trauma resulting from a motor vehicle crash due to distracted driving.
- A presentation by a survivor of a serious crash
sustained as a teenager - emphasizing a sense of "connection and
commonality" with the survivor, and the way the crash affected that
Before-and-after questionnaires from 900 teens indicated that the
program increased awareness of the risks of distracted driving. For
example, after the program, the teens were more likely to understand
that texting while driving was as dangerous as driving while impaired.
They were also more likely to understand the risks of other types of
distractions, such as driving while talking on the phone.
Participants also said they were more likely to follow healthy
driving behaviors in the future. The percentage of teens who said they
were unlikely to make a phone call while driving increased from 64% before viewing the video to 82% afterward. The percentage
who said they were unlikely to send a text while driving increased from
69 to 92%.
"Based on the results of the post-survey, it is safe to say that the
distracted driving program influenced teen-driving behaviors
positively," Ruth Adeola and coauthors conclude. They believe that the
program succeeded by "increasing perceived threat and providing a social
context in which teens could interact and learn."