Monday, 1 June 2015

Road trauma: How do educational programs help in reducing adolescent risk taking behaviour?

Dr Dean McKenzie has co-authored a paper with researchers J Buckmaster, C Brownlie, Prof J Olver & B Fedele from Epworth HealthCare, looking at the impact of education programs discussing the consequences of road trauma to improve student attitudes on risk taking behaviour.

Victorian road tolls are regularly discussed in mainstream media, with 299 deaths and 5,878 cases of hospitalisation in 2012 alone. Those who are hospitalised face significant struggles with risk of behavioural, cognitive and physical impairment, placing strain on quality of life. Furthermore, they face the risk of losing their job, friends and their family network. As a result, they can become socially isolated.

Current statistics demonstrate that whilst young drivers are only 14% of existing drivers, they make up 23% of road fatalities, and 24% of drivers admitted to hospital in 2012 were aged 18-25. A total of 34 young drivers died while driving in Victoria in the same year and of this, 76% were male drivers. Research has highlighted that male drivers have an increased rate of being in road accidents compared to females and this is most evident in young drivers who are below the age of 25.

There are numerous risk factors which lead to road accidents in young drivers. These include lack of road experience, consumption of alcohol and drugs, not adhering to speed limits, pressure from friends and not complying with seatbelt laws. The impact of road trauma on communities, coupled with several risk factors demonstrates the need for further education programs. Literature has highlighted that education based programs in school environments have been successful in reducing the number of road fatalities. Perceptions and attitudes regarding safety develop early and this indicates the need for such initiatives to be focused on adolescents and younger adults.

The researchers sought to assess the efficacy of the Traffic Safety Essentials (TSE) road trauma program and also determine the efficacy of an extra component added to the program which the experimental group received. They hypothesised that the additional component (which was a personal account of road trauma from a road accident survivor) would lead to better engagement in adolescent attitudes in engaging in risk taking behaviour whilst driving. They also hypothesised that there would be a difference in male and female attitudes to risk taking behaviour.

A total of 107 secondary school students participated in the study and students were randomly assigned to either the control group or the experimental group (the experimental group received both the TSE program and the additional personal account). All participants were also given the ‘Attitudes to Road Safety Questionnaire’ to complete both before and after the intervention.

A quantitative analysis utilising the Questionnaire indicated that there were statistically significant differences. An individual qualitative analysis however indicated that the session did have a positive impact on the participants. Male participants also indicated higher non-ideal scores regarding driving whilst under the influence of alcohol. They also had higher scores regarding speeding when driving and those who drive carelessly. Those in the experimental cohort also scored higher (regardless of gender) on attitudes towards those who drive carelessly. The authors are unsure of this reasoning and they question whether an additional session could have focused further on this.

The researchers conclude that the study clearly highlighted the benefits of education programs on improving attitudes to risk taking behaviour in students. It is hoped that the data collected from the study can assist in developing further education initiatives and can help in minimising the gap between students consciously ‘knowing’ and ‘making’ the correct and safe decisions when driving.

You can read the whole paper here

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