Pathways linking car transport for young adults and the public health in Northern Ireland: a qualitative study to inform the evaluation of graduated driver licensingReport as inadecuate

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BMC Public Health

, 17:551

Health behavior, health promotion and society


BackgroundNovice drivers are at relatively high risk of road traffic injury. There is good evidence that Graduated Driving Licensing GDL schemes reduce collisions rates, by reducing exposure to risk and by extending learning periods. Legislation for a proposed scheme in Northern Ireland was passed in 2016, providing an opportunity for future evaluation of the full public health impacts of a scheme in a European context within a natural experiment. This qualitative study was designed to inform the logic model for such an evaluation, and provide baseline qualitative data on the role of private cars in health and wellbeing.

MethodsNine group interviews with young people aged 16–23 N = 43 and two group interviews with parents of young people N = 8 were conducted in a range of settings in Northern Ireland in 2015. Data were analysed using thematic content analysis.

ResultsInformal car-pooling within and beyond households led to routine expectations of lift provision and uptake. Experiences of risky driving situations were widespread. In rural areas, extensive use of farm vehicles for transport needs meant many learner drivers had both early driving experience and expectations that legislation may have to be locally adapted to meet social needs. Cars were used as a site for socialising, as well as essential means of transport. Alternative modes public transport, walking and cycling were held in low esteem, even where available. Recall of other transport-related public health messages and parents’ existing use of GDL-type restrictions suggested GDL schemes were acceptable in principle. There was growing awareness and use of in-car technologies telematics used by insurance companies to reward good driving.

ConclusionsKey issues to consider in evaluating the broader public health impact of GDL will include: changes in injury rates for licensed car occupants and other populations and modes; changes in exposure to risk in the licensed and general population; and impact on transport exclusion. We suggest an important pathway will be change in social norms around offering and accepting lifts and to risk-taking. The growing adoption of in-car telematics will have implications for future GDL programmes and for evaluation.

KeywordsGraduated driver licensing Driving Focus groups Logic model Northern Ireland Qualitative Telematics Transport AbbreviationsDfTDepartment for Transport

DOEDepartment of Environment

GDLGraduated driver licensing

NIMDMNorthern Ireland multiple deprivation measure

UKUnited Kingdom

Author: Nicola Christie - Rebecca Steinbach - Judith Green - M. Patricia Mullan - Lindsay Prior


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