The young teenager and road safety: A qualitative study – Research findings (Development Department Research Programme Research Findings No. 61)

  • Published: The Scottish Government , 1998
  • Authors: The Scottish Government
  • Date Added: 15 Mar 2013
  • Last Update: 15 Mar 2013
  • Format: html


To carry out a qualitative study to examine young teenagers' perceptions of road safety education and how they use the roads as pedestrians. More specifically, it explored attitudes towards a split-screen road safety advertisement designed for television and cinema and targeted at the 12-15 years old age group.


A total of 10 focus groups were conducted, involving 63 young people between the ages of 12-15 years old in Scotland. The groups were segmented on the basis of age, sex and the level of affluence of the area in which the school was situated.

Key Findings:

  • The research found an apparent difference between young teenagers' knowledge and their actual behaviour (road safety messages absorbed but not acted upon).

  • Most teens engaged in ‘risky’ behaviour (crossing between parked cars or queuing traffic) but risk taking was highest among younger male teens.

  • Although boys constitute the majority of RTI casualties at all ages, road traffic incident statistics show that the difference between boys and girls is narrowest during their early teenage years.

  • Some reasons given for risky behaviour: ‘in a rush’, or ‘using crossings not cool’.

  • Young teenagers did not think that they, as individuals, were particularly at risk of pedestrian road traffic incidents, but they immediately identified 'teenagers', collectively, as a high risk group.

  • The research revealed a possible association between alcohol consumption and increased risk taking among young teenagers. This, combined with the fact that teenagers spend more time 'hanging around' than when they were younger may account for some of the Friday night peak in teenage road casualty statistics.

  • In general, young teenagers are not interested in road safety education, seeing it as something 'for kids' and as 'boring' and 'repetitive’. If road safety campaigns are to target this age group, they should focus on real-life approaches, stressing both the short and long term impact of suffering a pedestrian RTI. Young people felt 'shock tactics' were the only way of impacting on their behaviour.

  • The split-screen format of the current advertisement confused many of the teenagers, especially the younger ones, and this confusion undermined the road safety message.


Teenager, Behaviour, Risk-taking


Robust research that shows the importance of getting advertising right.