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Teenagers, roads, and risky behaviour

Teenagers, roads, and risky behaviour

A study of New Zealand adolescents’ behaviour as pedestrians suggests risky behaviour is behind a relatively high road toll, particularly among Mäori and children from small towns.

Dr Mark Sullman, a driving behaviour and road-rage researcher in Massey’s College of Business, and Helen Mann from Heriot Watt University, Scotland, surveyed more than 940 school children aged from 11 to 16.

They say there is a need to know why adolescent road users are at particularly high risk of being injured on the road, as reflected by New Zealand’s high road-toll. In their report Dr Sullman and Ms Mann cite statistics from the Ministry of Transport: Of 461 people killed were killed on the road in 2003, 58 were pedestrians. Those aged between 10 and 19 years old accounted for 28 per cent of all pedestrian injuries, despite making up only 15 per cent of the population.

The survey respondents were asked to rank the behaviours they engage in on a scale of one (“never”) to five (“Very often”). The road-use behaviours surveyed measured 43 different pedestrian behaviours, which could be placed into three categories: “unsafe crossing behaviour” (such as running across the road without looking); “playing on the road” (such as playing “chicken” by lying on the road and waiting for cars to come along); “planned protective behaviour” (such as wearing a cycle helmet or reflective clothing).

Significant results identified by Dr Sullman and Ms Mann include:

- About 20 per cent of the adolescents surveyed reported that they had engaged in behaviours rated by safety experts as being the most dangerous and most likely to lead to fatality (such as lying on the road and waiting for a car to come along and running onto the road without looking, for a dare).

- Adolescents from small towns reported playing on the roads and dangerous crossing behaviour more often than those from the cities and rural areas.

- Ethnicity: Mäori(and part Mäori) adolescents reported playing on the roads more often and dangerous crossing behaviour. They were also significantly less likely to engage in planned protective behaviour.

- Males reported “playing on the roads” more often than females.


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