Sensitivity to reward and punishment in young drivers


Worldwide, young drivers are involved in more road traffic collisions than any other age group. They are also the group of people who are most affected by the influence of their peers, family members and colleagues especially in the first few months after acquiring their driving licence. So how can all of us positively affect and change above mentioned statistics?

How do other people influence young novice driving?

Social influence is a heavily used concept which covers the effect others have on the attitudes and behaviour of individuals or groups. Motivational factors stemming from social influence were identified years ago to have a strong impact on the driving behaviour.

The most affected and susceptible to peer influence are adolescents and therefore many studies have documented the powerful influence of perceived and actual behavior of friends on adolescent risk behaviors. Young novices subsequently perform conforming driving behaviours, following most if not all road rules that they’ve learned in the driving class from their driving instructor. However, peers, family members and significant others reinforce and reshape their driving behaviour through criticism, praise and their driving behaviour on the road.


Parents tend to be integral to the risky behaviour of the young novice drivers, even if they might feel they’re unable to influence the risky behaviour of a young novice driver. They’re usually the provider of the vehicle which the novice drives, and at the same time they are the ones who are more likely to use emotional punishment — being “disappointed” as they expect from the novice to make responsible decisions. Most novice drivers, irrespective of age or gender were able to report that their parents would be unlikely sympathetic if they were caught breaking the road rules and that they would ensure they suffered the punishments either from them or from the police (if a fine was issued or if their car had been impounded). This has shown to reduce the incidence of risky driving based on Akers’ SLT assertions (table 1).

Countermeasures could also encourage parents to not only be non-risky driving role models for their children, but emphasise the importance of negative consequences for risky behaviour by the novice.


Table 1: Influence of parents on novice drivers

Nonetheless, punishments handled by friends were perceived as highly influential and most of the novices confirmed that punishments from friends affected them the most. Friends were likely to punish novices risky driving, especially is they were not risky drivers themselves. The type of punishment varied widely from passing comments, to getting ‘‘annoyed’’ to ‘‘definitely discourage’’ either if friends were passengers or not.

There is also a strong link between the lack of punishment and the problematic risky behaviour of young novice drivers, because if they believe their friends are not going to punish them for risky driving they are less likely to drive in a safer way. Novices said that even friends who had undertaken risky driving and experienced a negative outcome such as a car crash or a fine would had a positive impact on the young driver because of the “fear factor” that this could happen to them too. They show novices the negative results that come with risky driving.

Table 2: Influence of friends on novice drivers


If a friend, family or police punish the risky driving behaviour, this is likely to lead to the desired behavioural change in the driving behaviour of a young novice driver. Interestingly enough, novice drivers believe their friends and parents should impose punishments. Especially their parents, since they have consistently been found to be role models for their children in all sort of risky behaviour. Driving tips given from a parent or an adult are more likely to facilitate safe driving of a young driver than their mere presence in the car. The good behavior in the car was sustained even when young drivers drove alone later on.

Rewarding exemplary behaviour with social proof endorsements from friends and family would encourage young novices to adopt safe driving and be more careful on the streets since they would always have someone who’s relying on them in the back of their mind.
And what better place to start endorsing and helping your friends than on InsurePal app?


Bridie Scott-Parker, Barry Watson, Mark J. King, Melissa K. Hyde
‘‘They’re lunatics on the road: Exploring the normative influences of parents, friends, and police on young novices’ risky driving decisions”

Eun Kyoung Chunga, Byongho Choe, Jung Eun Leec, Jae In Leec, Young Woo Sohnc, “Effects of an adult passenger on young adult drivers’ driving speed: Roles of an adult passenger’s presence and driving tips from the passenger”

Elena Constantinoua, Georgia Panayiotoua, Nikos Konstantinoua, Anthi Loutsiou-Ladda, Andreas Kapardis
“Risky and aggressive driving in young adults: Personality matters”

Judy J. Fleiter , Alexia Lennon, Barry Watson
“How do other people influence your driving speed? Exploring the ‘who’ and the ‘how’ of social influences on speeding from a qualitative perspective”

Ward Vanlaaz, Herb Simpson, Dan Mayhew, Robyn Robertson
“Aggressive driving: A survey of attitudes, opinions and behaviors”