Damian McNamara

November 07, 2013

ORLANDO, Florida — An online program that offers proven strategies to reduce driving risks can help pediatricians promote safe driving to teens, especially during their first year behind the wheel.

"Some parents and pediatricians might not realize that motor vehicle crashes are the main cause of unintentional injuries and deaths for teen drivers," said Jean Shope, PhD, from the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

In fact, injury from motor vehicle accidents is the leading cause of death among people 15 to 24 years of age, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The primary focus of the Checkpoints program, found on the YoungDriverParenting.org Web site, is to educate parents and teen drivers about this risk.

The program provides a customized written agreement that can be signed by parents and adolescents. "There are rules for the teen and rules for the parents, which we thought was important," Dr. Shope said. The pacts include rewards for safe driving and consequences for risk taking.

As an adolescent becomes a more experienced driver, the system sends reminders when it's time to revisit and update the agreement. The agreements are free of charge.

Checkpoints Program

"Several studies have shown that if parents use this agreement, teens drive less riskily and have fewer violations and fewer crashes," Dr. Shope noted (J Adolesc Health. 2013;53:27-33 and Fam Community Health. 2009;32:175-188).

The evidence-based Checkpoints program "is effective and it works," she said. "But getting parents to the Web site can be tricky." That's where pediatricians come in, Dr. Shope added. "We know how busy parents and pediatricians are, but the more that credible sources like pediatricians talk about this, the better."

A brief intervention by a pediatrician or nurse can effectively steer parents toward the Web site and increase the time they spend there, according to preliminary study results, which were presented here at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2013 National Conference and Exhibition.

If parents use this agreement, teens drive less riskily and have fewer violations and fewer crashes.

To date, 140 practitioners from 16 states have completed Checkpoints training. Using a scripted protocol, they successfully delivered the brief teen driving intervention — designed to take 2 minutes — and increased the number of families visiting the Web site.

Dr. Shope and her team used a survey to assess follow-up responses from 122 practitioners.

Each provided the intervention to an average of 26 families, and the estimated time of each discussion was just over 4 minutes.

When practitioners were asked what they "often" or "always" covered, 98% reported encouraging visits to the Web site, 90% reported discussing crash risk, and 86% reported discussing the parent's role in driving safety. In addition, 86% of the practitioners felt they did a good job with the discussion.

"The pediatricians and nurse practitioners who delivered the intervention liked it and thought it was important and feasible," Dr. Shope said.

The researchers discovered, using IP addresses and Google Analytics, that "42% of those encouraged to go to the Web site did so," Dr. Shope reported.

Table. Analysis of Web Site Use

Characteristic Outcome
Parents referred to the site, n 3429
Visitors to site, n 2111
Unique new visits, n 1453
Average time spent on the site, min 3.53
Number of page views per visit, n 4


Dr. Shope was asked by an audience member how the researchers verified that the people referred by a study practitioner were the ones who visited the Web site. She explained that the registration process asks visitors to report where they learned about the site.

"This is a valuable study," said Marilyn Bull, MD, from the Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis, who was asked by Medscape Medical News to comment on the study.

She noted that the findings confirm that pediatricians can offer to parents a program that has been shown to efficiently and effectively manage teen driving behaviors.

"Pediatricians often are concerned that they don't have the time to do counseling on the leading cause of death for adolescents," Dr. Bull said. "This study will empower the pediatrician to use motivational interviewing techniques with the latest information to guide parents to the Web site, where they will learn how to effectively negotiate limits on their young novice driver."

The Checkpoints program provides materials for teen drivers to promote the message, including waiting room posters, brochures, and key chains with the Web address.

This study was sponsored by the CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the program through its Pediatric Research in Office Settings network. The National Institutes of Health developed the Checkpoints program, which is trademarked by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Regents of the University of Michigan. Dr. Shope and Dr. Bull have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2013 National Conference and Exhibition. Presented October 28, 2013.


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