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Experimental effects of injunctive norms on simulated risky driving among teenage males

In: Health psychology, vol 33(7), Jul 2014, 616-627

Authors: Bruce G. Simons-Morton, C. Raymond Bingham, Emily B. Falk, Kaigang Li, Anuj K. Pradhan, Marie Claude Ouimet, Farideh Almani, Jean T. Shope

Teenage passengers affect teenage driving performance, possibly by social influence. To examine the effect of social norms on driving behavior, male teenagers were randomly assigned to drive in a simulator with a peer-aged confederate to whom participants were primed to attribute either risk-accepting or risk-averse social norms. It was hypothesized that teenage drivers would engage in more risky driving behavior in the presence of peer passengers than no passengers, and with a risk-accepting compared with a risk-averse passenger. Method: 66 male participants aged 16 to18 years holding a provisional driver license were randomized to drive with a risk-accepting or risk-averse passenger in a simulator. Failure to Stop at a red light and percent Time in Red (light) were measured as primary risk-relevant outcomes of interest at 18 intersections, while driving once alone and once with their assigned passenger. Results: The effect of passenger presence on risky driving was moderated by passenger type for Failed to Stop in a generalized linear mixed model (OR = 1.84, 95% CI [1.19, 2.86], p < .001), and percent Time in Red in a mixed model (B = 7.71, 95% CI [1.54, 13.87], p < .05). Conclusions: Exposure of teenage males to a risk-accepting confederate peer increased teenage males’ risky simulated driving behavior compared with exposure to a risk-averse confederate peer. These results indicate that variability in teenage risky driving could be partially explained by social norms.