Safety Engagement Research

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“Like Parent, Like Child”: Do Parents Influence Youth Driving Safety?

Evan Poncelet
Master's Thesis, Applied Social Psychology, University of Saskatchewan
Supervised by Dr. Valery Chirkov










Saskatchewanian drivers currently face a disproportionately high risk of traffic-related injuries and, especially, fatalities as compared to other Canadian provinces. For example, Transport Canada’s (2016) most recent statistics report that Saskatchewan experienced 733.8 injuries and 16.5 fatalities per 100,000 licensed drivers in 2014—that’s roughly 22% more injuries and 123% more fatalities than the national average. As well, Saskatchewan Government Insurance (2016) has found that driver’s aged between 16 and 19 years old accounted for approximately 10% of Saskatchewan’s total collisions in 2015, putting them at a higher risk of collision involvement than any other age group. Though there are many possible reasons for this age effect, one that has received relatively little research focus is parental influence. Parents’ driving-related behaviours, attitudes, and emotive reactions are openly displayed in front of their children for years before reaching driving age. Thus, by the time youth begin their driver education, they may already have a firm conception of what is and is not appropriate while driving. If this is the case, driving instructors must compete against deeply entrenched, potentially unsafe, driving conceptions of their students.

My research aims to assess whether parents’ driving practices significantly influence their children’s driving practices prior to driver education and clarify exactly what information is transmitted from parents to children (e.g., attitudes, skills, norms, etc.) and how it is transmitted (e.g., behavioural modeling, verbal communication, etc.). Survey data from high school students and their parents will be analyzed to draw similarities between the driving practices of each group. Subsequently, participant interviews will permit a deep understanding of which driving concepts (both safe and unsafe) young drivers learn from their parents and how these concepts are transmitted.

Long-term implications of this research could include an intervention for parents (e.g., workshop, informational pamphlet, etc.), educating them on actions that they can take to improve their children's safety on the road.


Saskatchewan Government Insurance (2016). 2015 Saskatchewan traffic accidents. Regina, SK: SGI. Retrieved from:

Transport Canada (2016). Canadian motor vehicle traffic collision statistics. Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada. Retrieved from:




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