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Road Safety Web Publication No. 18

The Development of Children’s and Young People’s Attitudes to Driving: A Critical Review of the Literature

Kevin Durkin1 and Andy Tolmie2

1School of Psychological Sciences and Health, University of Strathclyde

2Department of Psychology and Human Development, Institute of Education, University of London September 2010 Department for Transport: London

Although this report was commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT), the findings and recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the DfT. While the DfT has made every effort to ensure the information in this document is accurate, DfT does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of that information; and it cannot accept liability for any loss or damages of any kind resulting from reliance on the information or guidance this document contains.

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ISBN 978 1 84864 103 7


Executive summary 6

1 Introduction 15

1.1 Background 15

1.2 Aims and objectives of this commission 16

1.2.1 Aims 16

1.2.2 Objectives 16

1.3 Defining ‘pre-driver’ 16

1.4 Why development? 17

1.5 Structure of the review 18

2 Attitudes and affective beliefs 21

2.1 Attitudes and affective beliefs as determinants of driver behaviour 22

2.2 Developmental issues 23

2.2.1 Development of attitudes to authority 26

2.3 Attitudes and affective beliefs: summary 27

2.4 Policy implications 28

3 Perceived threat/perceived benefits 29

3.1 Perceived threat and adult drivers 29

3.2 Perceived benefits 30

3.3 Developmental issues 31

3.3.1 Learning about risk 31

3.3.2 Adolescent brain development and perception of risk 34

3.3.3 Emotions and risk 36

3.3.4 Multiple risk-taking in adolescence 37

3.4 Perceived threats/perceived benefits: summary 38

3.5 Policy implications 38

4 Subjective norms 39

4.1 Norms as determinants of driver behaviour 40

4.2 Gender and normative influences 41

4.3 Developmental issues 41

4.4 Subjective norms: summary 44

4.5 Policy implications 44

5 Personality 45

5.1 Developmental issues 46

5.1.1 Personality and plasticity 48

5.2 Personality: summary 49

5.3 Policy implications 49

6 Identity 51

6.1 Developmental issues 52

6.1.1 Autonomy and social identity 53

6.1.2 Identity and multiple risk-taking 56

6.1.3 Identity and gender development 57

6.2 Identity: summary 58

6.3 Policy implications 58

7 Task difficulty and skills 59

7.1 The social dimension of difficulty 61

7.2 The cognitive dimension of difficulty 62

7.3 Developmental issues 64

7.4 Task difficulty and skills: summary 68

7.5 Policy implications 68

8 Habit 69

8.1 Habit, social practices and modelling 69

8.2 Developmental issues 70

8.3 Habit: summary 71

8.4 Policy implications 72

9 Contextual influences 73

9.1 Influence of parents 73

9.2 Influence of peers 74

9.3 Influence of the mass media 75

9.4 Developmental issues 77

9.4.1 Parental influence and pre-drivers 77

9.4.2 Peer influence and pre-drivers 79

9.4.3 Media influence and pre-drivers 80

9.5 Contextual influences: summary 82

9.6 Policy implications 82

10 Conclusions – key questions and future research directions 84

10.1 Key research questions 1 and 2 84

10.1.1 Response and future directions 84

10.1.2 The development of attitudes from childhood 84

10.1.3 The development of understanding of regulatory authorities 85

10.1.4 Continuity in skills development 86

10.2 Key research questions 3 and 4 87

10.2.1 Response and future directions 87

10.3 Key research question 5 89

10.3.1 Response and future directions 89

10.4 Key research questions 6 and 7 89

10.4.1 Response and future directions 90

10.5 Conclusion 90

11 References 91

Appendix 1: Education and training of pre-drivers 112

Appendix 2: Review methodology 125

Executive summary

The overall purpose of this report is to provide a critical review of the literature on the development of children’s and young people’s attitudes to driving and being a car passenger. The aim is to synthesise existing evidence to help policymakers better understand how, when and to what extent they can target the development of road use skills in children as they move from being a pedestrian and cyclist to being a driver and passenger.

It is well established that young novice drivers, especially if they are male, are at greater risk of accidents than any other group. Extensive research has addressed a range of factors that might help explain this association, in order to inform attempts to mitigate risk. However, relatively little of this research has been concerned with the pre-driver period, and the influences that might extend from this into becoming a driver. This is despite the fact that: (a) age and gender differences in the risk pattern rule out any simple account in terms of inexperience; and (b) the elevated risk among members of this group emerges too rapidly to be due solely to behaviours acquired at that point. What work there has been on the pre-driver period has tended, moreover, to focus predominantly on attitudinal processes to the exclusion of other types of influence. It has also lacked a developmental orientation aimed specifically at considering continuity and change over the transition to becoming a driver. The existing literature, therefore, presents a restricted basis for understanding the influences that might be operating over this whole period, and thus planning for interventions at the pre-driver stage.

This review is intended to generate a fresh approach, building on what is known from past research, but integrating it within a wider developmental perspective. This approach rests on three fundamental assumptions:

1. The acquisition of the skills required to interact safely with traffic, and of the ability and motivation to deploy these strategically, is a lengthy process starting in childhood.

2. None of these elements are static, but change over time, among drivers as well as children and adolescents.

3. There needs to be consistency between the accounts of pre-driver influences on novice driver behaviour, and those regarding the changes that occur as novice drivers grow into mature drivers: at the very least, related processes must be at work throughout these shifts.

The starting point for the review was provided by the report of Strecher et al. (2007a) on the psychosocial predictors of driver behaviour, and the possibilities for pre-driver interventions with regard to these. Seven types of factor were identified in this way:

 attitudes;

 perceived threat and perceived benefits of driving in a particular way;

 norms;

 personality;

 identity;

 task difficulty; habit.

To these were added wider contextual influences, and the effects of education and training. These different types of factor were then used as the source of literature search terms in relation to novice drivers and pre-drivers. In addition, a wide-ranging consultation was undertaken to identify relevant ‘grey’ literature (reports, etc.) not likely to be turned up by searches of online databases. Next, the findings with regard to the impact of each type of factor on novice drivers were summarised, to provide an overview of what is known about the characteristic sources of problematic behaviour at this stage. Potential developmental issues were then identified, along with their policy implications, informed by both the pre-driver literature and wider developmental research. During this process, it became apparent that adolescence was the probable key period of pre-driver influence.

The key conclusions for each of the areas addressed in this way are as follows:

Attitudes and affective beliefs

In adults, the relationship between attitudes and behaviours is complex and subject to other influences. In pre-drivers, the relationship is complex, subject to other influences, and is changeable over time. Of course, during this period attitudes cannot bear directly on driving behaviour, but they may bear on other aspects of road behaviour, and they may contribute part of the context in which young people progress towards driving. Importantly, at present, the evidence on the stability of attitudes and affective beliefs across the pre-driver and novice driver periods is scant and inconclusive. Some degree of continuity seems likely, but it is also probable that the extent of this continuity is dependent on the effects of personality, identity and contextual influences (peers, parents). Some changes come about as part of broader developmental changes in social reasoning (e.g. the tendency to question authority in late childhood and adolescence). We need more research into how the patterns shift over the course of adolescence. The likelihood that there are changes during this period highlights a major opportunity for intervention.

Policy implications

 Targeting general attitudes towards driving and road safety is unlikely to be of broad effectiveness.

 Education and interventions aimed at pre-drivers should target specific behaviours in specific contexts by specific types of individuals.

 Much remains to be done to determine how best to deliver the relevant messages.

 Pre-drivers’ ambivalent attitudes about cars and driving suggest an area for effective intervention, though more work is needed to identify specific points of tension that might prove productive.

Perceived threats/perceived benefits

Drivers are influenced by perceptions of both risk and benefits, but many drivers, especially novice drivers, fail to perceive risk realistically. There are also individual differences in orientations to risk. Male drivers tend, on average, to take risks more than female drivers. Young drivers take more risks. Risk management in driving entails an array of perceptual, cognitive and emotional skills. Acquiring these skills begins in early childhood, but develops over a long period. Children’s judgements of risks as pedestrians are often inadequate into early adolescence, and children show indications of subscribing to risk compensation bias and optimistic bias; there is some evidence that they share these erroneous perceptions with their parents. Recent research into adolescent brain development indicates that the skills required for risk management are likely to be still developing through the teens. Adolescents approaching the age where they could seek a driving licence may also be both more prone to emotional over-reaction in risky environments and less able to suppress appealing actions. Risk-taking is a natural part of adolescent development, but some teenagers are more prone to it than others, and some develop lifestyles of multiple risk-taking. These patterns, established in early to mid-adolescence, are significant precursors of risky driving and crashes in early adulthood.

Policy implications

 Simply providing people with ‘cold’ information about risky practices is unlikely to lead to substantial changes in behaviour.

 Informing pre-drivers about risks may nevertheless make a contribution to longer-term orientation towards driving.

 Education and intervention should give careful attention to perceived benefits of safe driving because these can outweigh perceived risks.

 Scant research exists to inform our understanding of these processes and to guide modes of intervention.

Subjective norms

Norms are perceived conventions or standards of behaviour, which fall into two principal categories: descriptive norms (perceptions of what others typically do) and injunctive norms (perceptions of what others want you to do). Descriptive norms create a pressure to conform, to be like one’s peers; injunctive norms create a pressure to satisfy someone else’s standards, to avoid disappointing others. Evidence indicates that adult drivers are influenced by both types of norm. Different people, and different peer groups, may have different norms. For example, some male peer groups share norms according to which speeding is considered a regular form of behaviour. Children become gradually aware that societal norms exist and that they govern different aspects of our behaviour. In respect of learning the norms associated with road use, children’s primary learning experiences are likely to stem from their own activities as pedestrians, cyclists and passengers, though little research has been conducted to examine how they extract norms from their experiences or how they change with cognitive and social development. However, by definition, norms are social phenomena – they are perceptions shared and transmitted among groups – and this signals the role of important others, especially parents and peers, the former over a long period of time. Norms are closely interwoven with forming a sense of identity, itself a complex and sometimes volatile process of adolescence, in which different standards can be salient at different times.

Policy implications

 Parents are an important long-term influence on young drivers’ behaviour, and there is a need to encourage parents to reflect on what messages they send to their children about driving and road safety.

 Information and education should include efforts to identify and publicise the positive behaviour of adolescents and young drivers, and to portray peer norms as pro-safety.

 Promoting a greater sense of the role change associated with passing the driving test may help activate ‘sleeper effects’ from parental norms, and greater resistance to negative peer influences.


There is extensive evidence from studies of adults that personality characteristics such as sensation-seeking, external locus of control, impulsivity and aggressiveness are predictive of risky driving; in contrast, the attributes of altruism, anxiety, and conscientiousness tend to be associated with safer driving. These personality characteristics tend to be detectable quite early in life and be associated with behaviour in traffic environments as early as the preschool years. High-quality longitudinal research reveals early emerging risk profiles and stability of difficulties across childhood into early adulthood. It is very difficult to intervene to change people’s personality. However, personality is not absolutely rigid, it does not account for all of the variance in driver behaviour, and there is evidence of development – including increases in conscientiousness and emotional stability – in early adulthood. Some evidence indicates that this period can be an important period of change for males, with responsible driving integrated with other changes in personal responsibilities.

Policy implications

 Any policies concerning pre-driver education should take into account that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not map onto the characteristics and needs of all members of target groups.

 Targeting driving risk alone would not meet all of these young people’s problems, and cross-Departmental/multi-disciplinary collaboration is therefore essential for developing strategies to tackle early emerging and long enduring indicators of problem behaviour.

 Most teachers could provide a preliminary identification of children in their care with problematic characteristics, but there are educational, ideological, ethical, and possibly legal issues to be taken into account in formally identifying children as ‘at risk’.

 People who grow up to commit low to moderate levels of driving violations are better able to regulate their own behaviour and are more amenable to guidance.


Forming an identity is a fundamental aspect of development, of particular significance through adolescence and early adulthood. An individual’s sense of identity, including desired self-image, can bear importantly on his or her attitudes towards road behaviour. For many adults, driving and car ownership are important components of their identity. Identity development is a broad process extending from childhood to adulthood. Among children, self-identities are associated with attitudes towards risk in pedestrian decision-making. In turn, self-identity factors are correlated strongly with a general measure of risk-taking and with attitudes towards pedestrian behaviours. During adolescence, the prospects of achieving driver status and possessing a particular type of vehicle – and driving it in a particular way – become motivating for many. Gender identity is strongly linked to how young people equip and express themselves as road users. Driver status and vehicle attributes tend to be particularly important to young males and closely interwoven with aspects of male gender role identity, such as autonomy, power, and bravado.

Policy implications

 Information, education and training for pre-drivers should be formulated in ways which are sensitive to adolescents’ preoccupations and motivations with regard to identity.

 Attempts to modify identity during mid to late adolescence, in particular, are emotionally arousing and often rejected.

 Interventions aimed at encouraging younger pre-drivers to define themselves in a particular way may be more effective.

 Consideration should be given to the image(s) of drivers and driving that pre-drivers acquire and the ways in which different parties (parents, peers, media) contribute to these.

Task difficulty and skills

There is a key distinction, implicit in much previous research, between social and cognitive processes relating to driving ability. Social processes are concerned with perceived ability and perceived demands, as coloured by socially-driven self-conceptions, and act primarily as influences on the intention to drive in a particular way. Cognitive processes are concerned with actual competences and skills, and act as influence on moment-to-moment decision-making during driving. These processes interact with each other, but for novice drivers (especially those who are younger and for whom driving marks a major social change) social processes are more dominant, partly because they have yet to attune themselves properly to the task of driving and to attend to relevant feedback. This is particularly the case where belief in personal ability is already high, as adolescent male identity often requires, leading to more challenging and riskier styles of driving that are resistant to moderation via experience. Since greater skill and higher levels of self-monitoring and self-regulation are associated with safer behaviour, one way to counteract this social dominance during the pre-driver period would be to promote better hazard perception (the most transferable aspect of skill, and one of the most central to safe driving) and encourage greater personal responsibility for skill development.

Policy implications

 More research is needed on the relationships between skill and perceived ability at different stages of the driving career, and on what promotes shifts towards self-regulated skill development.

 Training in road crossing and cycling, as well as pre-driver training, should emphasise self-regulated learning and make reading the road a central concern.

 Those responsible for driving instruction and testing should bear in mind the distinction between driving skill and actual driving behaviour, with the latter being influenced by social processes relating to identity.

 The tension between the social and cognitive dimensions of driving ability should be exploited by promoting awareness of the real nature of driver competence, and its equivalence to other desirable skills.


Whether or not people carry out a behaviour is often predicted by whether or not they have done so in the past, i.e., whether the behaviour has become habitual. In driving, both positive (putting on seat belts, checking mirrors) and negative (overtaking in the wrong lane, failing to signal) behaviours can become habitual. Many variables affect habit formation, and there is also evidence that habits can be modified. People can scarcely form driving habits before they begin to drive, but they may form habits that become the backdrop to some of their later behaviours on the road. At a very general level, an individual could develop a habit of seeking risk or being cautious; patterns of inattentive behaviour established during childhood may be hard to relinquish when one becomes a driver. Some driving habits may be acquired vicariously through watching one’s parents or other significant drivers. Much environmental road policy is designed to influence drivers’ and pedestrians’ habits, and there is evidence that it can be effective. We need to learn more about driving-related habits formed in childhood and how stable they are.

Policy implications

 Habits are concrete activities and are therefore open to specific interventions (‘Clunk click’, ‘Think before you drink before you drive’), but much remains to be done to determine effective ways of doing this.

 Parents should be reminded about the impact of their own habits in the course of role modelling.

Contextual influences

From their earliest experiences of road use and vehicles, pre-drivers are exposed extensively to the behaviours and values of others. Parents have a particularly prominent influence as driver role models, as sources of information and values. Peers are important for similar reasons. In both cases, influence could be negative or positive. The contributions of the mass media are open to speculation, but certainly worthy of attention because of their pervasiveness and their potential scope to represent, or misrepresent, driving norms. In respect of all of these potential contextual influences, it is important to bear in mind that social psychological processes are two-way: the messages and values that pre-drivers may extract from the world around them will themselves be interpreted selectively, according to the individual characteristics, needs, and motivations of the young person.

Policy implications

 Strategies focused on pre-drivers alone will fail to address key influences.

 Adolescents approaching driving age should be provided with guidance in evaluating others’ safety levels and in how to raise concerns about others’ driving.

 Parents are the most promising contextual influence for intervention, and there is therefore a need to develop strategies to enlist parents in pre-driving and early driving education/supervision.

 The majority of young people aspire to be safe drivers, a point which should be emphasised and built upon in educational and intervention strategies.

Education and training of pre-drivers

Education about safe road use needs to begin early in life, to be sustained in developmentally appropriate ways, and to involve more than just pre-drivers themselves. It would be inadequate simply to focus on attitudes and/or factual information because these alone do not reliably predict behaviour. It is already established that driver education is often ineffective, and sometimes counterproductive; work with pre-drivers needs to be aware of these challenges and to examine ways to address the preconditions of learning to drive. Reflecting the complexity of the developmental processes, educational and intervention strategies need to be multifaceted, and to involve more than just pre-drivers themselves. Parents, peers, media and formal educational settings may all play important roles, and a range of evidence exists to inform educational strategies.

Policy implications

 There is no ‘silver bullet’ that will ensure the safe and responsible behaviour of all young drivers. Simply providing factual information about risk and safety will make minimal contributions. Concentrating on vehicle handling skills fails to address higher level factors that influence young people approaching the age of learning to drive.

 A more realistic aspiration is to develop broad ranging, but specific, strategies that take into account the multiple influences on the development of young people’s orientations towards driving.

 One overriding task to which pre-driver education should contribute is the fostering of a safety culture with respect to road behaviour, by encouraging parental role modelling, discouraging the association of images of risky driving with masculine identity, and enlisting positive youth attitudes towards driving responsibly.

 Interactive media, extremely popular among young people, could be exploited in schools to support pre-driver education.

 There is a pressing need for research to inform educational interventions, implementation trials, and careful evaluation of short-, medium- and long-term outcomes.


The current research literature provides partial answers to the important questions with which we began. There is a lot of good quality research that provides information and offers explanations of aspects of development in these respects; this report has attempted to draw together what we do know. It has also become clear that there is much that we do not know and we conclude that this is an area in pressing need of new research. It is a truism that no adult exists who was not previously a child; what happens in childhood has enormous implications for what happens in adulthood. It is also a truism that no driver exists who was not once a pre-driver: we need to learn much more about the complex processes of development that link these stages.

1 Introduction

The overall purpose of this report is to provide a critical review of the literature on the development of children’s and young people’s attitudes to driving and being a car passenger. The aim is to synthesise existing evidence to help policymakers better understand how, when and to what extent they can target the development of road use skills in children as they move from being a pedestrian to cyclist and to passenger and driver.

The report was commissioned by the Road User Safety Division in the Department for Transport.

1.1 Background

It is well established that young drivers are at greater risk of accidents than any other age group. Recent data from the UK, for example, indicate that approximately 1,200 young drivers were killed or seriously injured annually on UK roads – more than three every day (CEA, 2009). Extensive research, summarised in later sections of this report, has addressed myriad factors believed to help explain this association and to inform attempts to mitigate risk in young drivers. Not surprisingly, the bulk of this work has been concerned with people in their early driving years – typically (with slight variations according to local specifications in licensing age requirements) aged 16 to around 20. However, becoming a driver is not a sudden experience, completely unrelated to the young person’s prior experiences, skills, behaviour and attitudes.

Acquiring the range of fundamental psychological skills and knowledge required in order to interact with traffic, together with the ability to deploy these strategically in different traffic situations, is a lengthy developmental process that begins early in life (Tolmie et al., 2006; Thomson et al., 2006). As well as skills and knowledge, children’s attitudes and expectations bear on the ways in which they engage with traffic environments. Less is known about the development of these, but research indicates that attitudes to safe driving emerge well before any formal driver training takes place and that these lay the foundations for adult attitudes and behaviours (Organization for Economic Development, Waylen and McKenna, 2002). It needs also to be borne in mind that the relationship between attitudes and behaviour is complex, and this is at least as true in the course of development as it is in adulthood.

Over the period from the pre-school years to their teens, children have extensive direct and indirect opportunities to acquire information about drivers and driving. Some of this information, and the associated attitudes and emotions, may in turn be incorporated into young people’s own expectations and practices as novice drivers. Yet, surprisingly, little is known of how children perceive drivers, how the understanding of drivers’ perceptions, competencies and limitations develops, and how variations in development and self-awareness flow through to influence individual differences in early driving performance.

1.2 Aims and objectives of this commission

1.2.1 Aims

The primary aims of this project are to review and synthesise research on children’s and young people’s concepts of driving, and to identify when and how to address effectively their safety through road safety education and training interventions. The review covers child and adolescent pedestrian behaviour and perceptions of/assumptions about drivers and driving. It considers how other aspects of young people’s experiences (including as a pedestrian, cyclist and passenger), reasoning, and everyday practices may bear on their approaches to becoming autonomous drivers.

1.2.2 Objectives

The objectives of the project are:

 to summarise and synthesise the relevant research findings;

 to identify the key issues in the development of understanding of, and attitudes towards, the driver’s role, and the behaviour of driving;

 to examine the acquisition and development of attitudes in the course of pre-driving road uses, including being a pedestrian, a cyclist or a passenger;

 to discuss the implications of this work for the transition to early driving; and

 to provide directions for future research.

1.3 Defining ‘pre-driver’

The term ‘pre-driver’ could potentially designate any person who has not yet become a driver (i.e. including adults who have not yet learnt to drive). Because researchers have conducted relevant studies with varied age ranges, we do not impose a rigid cut-off point at a particular age. However, for the purposes of the present review, our focus is defined slightly more narrowly on young persons who have not yet learnt to drive, either because they have not reached the minimal legal age to acquire a driving licence or because, while old enough to meet legal requirements, they have not yet begun to drive. In effect, this means we are interested in developments from the pre-school years to around age 20 – a small part of the lifespan, but a very large period in developmental terms.

Within this, our primary (though by no means exclusive) focus will be on early to mid-adolescence. This is partly for the obvious practical reason that this is the period in which the prospects of becoming a driver are increasingly imminent for many young people, partly because this is a period of important developmental changes in numerous factors that bear on driving, and partly because this is likely to be a critical period for effective pre-driver education.

1.4 Why development?

Why take a developmental approach to the study of pre-drivers’ attitudes, perceptions, expectations and behaviour? Developmental psychology is the scientific study of the processes of psychological change as human beings age. It is a wide-ranging field, which investigates, among other things, the acquisition of understanding and skills, the progress of behavioural competencies, the development of social relationships, and the construction of identity. It takes account of biological changes within the organism, cognitive developments as the young person interacts with the environment, and social processes as people of varying developmental statuses (e.g. children and parents, adolescents and their peers) interact to influence ways of viewing the world and to co-ordinate behaviours.

All of these processes bear importantly on the development of driving. A fundamental assumption of a developmental approach to this topic is that adolescent attitudes/behaviour arise within a lengthy developmental context and are subject to continuing onward change.

A developmental perspective leads to an attempt to set attitudes/beliefs/understanding/behaviour about aspects of driving in a longer-term perspective. The kinds of questions this prompts include: Where did they come from? How were they formed? What is their status at a given point? How do they interrelate? How might they change (or be changed) in the future?

Thus, a further motivation for a developmental approach is that it informs understanding and planning with respect to education and intervention. It is critical that systematic programmes take into account the developmental histories, status and likely progress of their recipients.

Research into other areas of the development of health-related behaviours shows that radical changes occur in many young people between childhood and adolescence. For example, most primary school children are well aware of the dangers of smoking and tend to regard the practice with considerable negativity (Porcellato et al., 1999), yet many adolescents take up smoking. Most primary school children dislike the taste of alcohol and hold negative connotations of its uses and its psychological consequences (Cameron et al., 2003), yet most adolescents take up drinking, many to excess. Thus, the developments of adolescence need to be understood not only as new activities or practices in response to immediate influences, but also as departures from previously strongly held beliefs.

During adolescence, young people are undergoing dramatic changes in their cognitive capacities, their hormonal and emotional regulation, their relationships with parents and peers, their orientation to society and their sense of personal identity (Durkin, 1995; Keating, 2007; Shope, 2006). For example, Shope points out that adolescents have different sleep patterns and needs from adults, not least a tendency to wake up later in the morning, but the practical arrangements of their lives (e.g. school attendance or work requirements) may lead to early morning start times. Young people are coping with hormonal fluctuations and high energy levels, a desire to become less dependent on parents, strong motivations to engage with peer communities, the temptations of legal and illicit substances, and the need to define who they are (Durkin, 1995; Keating, 2007; Shope, 2006). All of these factors have extensive implications for the development of pre-drivers and early drivers, as will be discussed in fuller detail in later sections of this report.

1.5 Structure of the review

A key challenge confronting a review of research into the development of pre-driver perceptions, attitudes and behaviour is that these and related topics have been studied extensively in novice drivers, but far less so in children and early adolescents. Nevertheless, the available research on novice drivers is very relevant to our task because it illuminates the phenomena that are salient at this developmental period. This enables us, in turn, to consider what is known, and what needs to be known, about their antecedents, earlier in development.

Hence, our broad strategy has been to focus initially on psychosocial issues that have been identified as important factors in the behaviour of novice drivers. These form the basis for the main sections of the report. In each section, we summarise first the main findings concerning novice drivers, with a particular emphasis on those that reflect developmental issues. Then, we proceed to consider the developmental implications, drawing where possible on road-user research that has been conducted with participants below driving age and also on related aspects of developmental psychological research. Finally, in each section, we propose a set of policy recommendations.

In identifying the relevant issues we draw substantially, though not exclusively, on a report by Strecher et al. (2007a) identified key psychosocial targets for safe driving behaviour in adolescents and reviewed prospects for intervention in terms of this framework. With reference to major theoretical models of health-related behaviour and the empirical literature on novice driver characteristics, the authors specified two inclusion criteria:

1. that the factors should strongly predict safe driving behaviour; and

2. that they should have programmatic utility for intervention strategies (that is, that they have the potential for change and are viable targets for intervention).

The psychosocial factors proposed by Strecher et al. (2007a) are: affective beliefs, perceived threat, perceived benefits of unsafe driving, subjective norms, personality, identity, task difficulty, and habit. We share Strecher et al.’s view that these should be foremost targets for analysis and intervention, and hence we see our developmental approach as complementary to their account. However, two complementary themes are also very salient when a developmental approach is taken. One of these, namely contextual influences (especially, parents, peers and the mass media) bears on each of the above. The other, education, flows naturally from any consideration of how pre-drivers develop, what influences the course of development, and – typically of great practical interest – what can be done to promote the development of a healthy orientation towards road safety and driving. Contextual influences and education are not psychosocial factors akin to those identified by Strecher et al., and, indeed, since education is considered primarily here in terms of its potential for intervention, it is included as an appendix, rather than as part of the main body of the report (see Appendix 1). However, they are both important potential influences, and are therefore also addressed. Finally, we present a summary of gaps in our knowledge that call for further research.

Our approach was further shaped by a series of research questions that could be identified a priori as important both in explaining the development of pre-driver perceptions, attitudes, and behaviour, and in formulating policies and strategies for intervention. The key research questions are as follows:

1. When and how do children and young people develop their attitudes and beliefs to driving, riding and being a passenger, and how are these related to their subsequent driving behaviour?

2. What aspects of skills and attitudes acquired from pedestrian and cyclist behaviour are likely to extend to early performance as a driver, and what is the probable strength of the influence of these?

3. What factors, including perceptions of peer behaviour, promote or inhibit the growth of risk-taking during later childhood and adolescence, and how far do patterns of risk-taking and of cautious behaviour generalise across different contexts, including those relating to traffic environments?

4. How far is vicarious experience of the driving behaviour of parents and older siblings, and their statements about that experience, influential in shaping child and adolescent perceptions of drivers and driving, and what evidence is there to suggest that these influences follow through to later personal behaviour?

5. How far are media presentations of the nature of driving influential in shaping conceptions of the social identities associated with driving, and to what extent is novice driver behaviour an enactment of such social identities?

6. How can the attitudes and beliefs of children and young people to driving be influenced, by whom, and how can this be measured?

7. To what extent can children and young people be influenced to have more positive (safe) attitudes to being a driver, rider or passenger of a motor vehicle?

We stress at the outset that, while there is an abundance of good quality empirical research on many aspects of pedestrian behaviour in childhood and on the attitudes and behaviours of novice drivers, there are also many gaps in our knowledge. Part of the purpose of this report is to identify those gaps, to indicate where extant knowledge can provide at least a starting point from which to address them, and to propose directions for future research.

Taking these considerations into account, then, leads to the following sections to this report:

 Attitudes and affective beliefs (Section 2).

 Perceived threat/perceived benefits (Section 3).

 Subjective norms (Section 4).

 Personality (Section 5).

 Identity (Section 6).

 Task difficulty and skills (Section 7).

 Habit (Section 8 ).

 Contextual influences (Section 9).

 Conclusions – key questions and future research directions (Section 10).

In each of Sections 2 to 9, we begin with an explanation or definition of terms, followed by a summary of what is known in respect of the relevant phenomena in adult drivers. We turn then to the developmental issues, and review what is known of how the processes and experiences of childhood and adolescence contribute to the emergence of the adult phenomena. At many points, we conclude that what is known is insufficient, and we indicate where further research is needed. Each section ends with a summary of policy implications. In addition, we include an appendix on issues relating to the education of pre-drivers (Appendix 1), which follows the same structure. The methodology used to conduct the review is described in Appendix 2.

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