Exploration of the Effect of Positive Reinforcement on Teen Driving Behavior

Principal Investigator: Yi-Ching Lee, PhD, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Below is an executive summary of this project. Please note that this summary describes results and interpretation that may not be final. Final interpretation of results will be in the peer-reviewed literature.

A depiction of one of the experimental drives where participants followed a hilly road while interacting with other vehicles and receiving occasional auditory feedback. These simulated road configurations allowed the research team to examine how drivers adjust their vehicle control behaviors upon receiving positive reinforcements or warnings.

Research has shown that novice driver crashes decline sharply during the first 6 to 24 months of driving, regardless of the age at which driving begins. Additionally, the relative proportion of speeding-related crashes to all crashes decreases as driver age increases. These patterns indicate that the accumulation of experience during the initial years of driving play a critical role in the decline of crash risk. During the early, high-risk period, opportunities exist to enhance experience and improve safe driving behaviors among novice drivers through continued training and educational efforts beyond licensure.

In-vehicle monitoring systems could provide such continued learning opportunities, yet little is known about how to best provide this training and education. The objectives of this study were to:

1) better understand young drivers’ perceptions, preferences, and reactions to receiving support and feedback from in-vehicle monitoring systems, and

2) quantify any behavioral changes upon receiving feedback.

To address the goals of this project, a series of three studies were performed:

  • Study #1: Researchers identified 17 in-vehicle monitoring apps (iPhone and Android platforms) designed to monitor driver behavior and then systematically evaluated the technologies on a specified driving route. This field evaluation provided insightful information on the range of currently available features and their functionality.
  • Study #2: Based on the field evaluation results, individual interviews were conducted with 18 young novice drivers exploring their attitudes towards in-vehicle monitoring systems. Results indicated that these drivers were open to receiving feedback, especially when delivered live, in auditory format, and linked to rewards such as earning small monetary bonuses for good driving behavior.
  • Study #3: Incorporating findings from the interviews, a driving simulator experiment was designed to deliver real-time, auditory feedback (with both positive and negative messages) to 17 participants about their speeding behaviors. Behaviorally, no significant changes were observed when participants received live, auditory feedback.

The results of this study indicate that although positive reinforcement techniques are attractive and have potential to change speed management behaviors, further testing and refinement of reinforcement techniques are needed.

Project Team Member

Aditya Belwadi, PhD, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia


Celia Cheng, Drexel University; Leif Malm, Drexel University; Molly Tiedeken, Drexel University

IAB Mentors

Doug Longhitano, American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; Chuck Thomas, American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; Mary Beaubien, FCA US LLC; Joseph Lenneman, FCA US LLC; Steve Rouhana, Ford Motor Company; Louis Tijerina, Ford Motor Company; MaryAnn Beebe, General Motors Holdings LLC; Dan Glaser, General Motors Holdings LLC; Sara Seifert, Minnesota HealthSolutions; Noelle LaVoie, Parallel Consulting; Clayne Woodbury, Realtime Technologies Inc.; Steve Roberson, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company