Departmental Papers (ASC)

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Journal Article

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Health Psychology





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Objective: 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.

Copyright/Permission Statement

Copyright © 2014 by the American Psychological Association. This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.


social norms, social influence, risk behavior, adolescents, randomized trial



Date Posted: 23 May 2016

This document has been peer reviewed.