“If they say go faster or something I’ll probably go faster”: Peer influence upon the risky driving behaviour of young novices
Young novice drivers are at considerable risk of injury on the road, and their behaviour appears vulnerable to the social influence of their friends. Research was undertaken to identify the nature and mechanisms of peer influence upon novice driver (16-25 years) behaviour to inform the design of more effective young driver countermeasures. Peer influence was explored in small group interviews (n = 21) and three surveys (n1 = 761, n2 = 1170, n3 = 390) as part of a larger Queensland-wide study. Surveys two and three were part of a six-month longitudinal study. Peer influence was reported from the pre-Licence to the Provisional (intermediate) periods. Young novice drivers who experienced or expected social punishments including ‘being told off’ for risky driving reported less riskiness. Conversely young novice drivers who experienced or expected social rewards such as being ‘cheered on’ by their friends – who were also more risky drivers – reported more risky driving including crashes and offences. Peers appear influential in the risky behaviour of young novice drivers, and influence occurs through social mechanisms of reinforcement and sanction. Interventions enhancing positive influence and curtailing negative influence may improve road safety outcomes not only for young novice drivers, but for all persons who share the road with them. Among the interventions warranting further development and evaluation are programs to encourage the modelling of safe driving behaviour and attitudes by young drivers; and minimisation of social reinforcement and promotion of social sanctions for risky driving behaviour in particular.