A Baylor University study has analyzed the effects of a supplemental drivers’ education program on teens’ risk awareness and driving behavior. The results should be of interest to parents in New Jersey whose teens are engaging in risky behavior behind the wheel. The program analyzed is called the Texas Reality Education for Drivers program, and 21 teen participants formed the study group.

The RED program is an interactive and reality-based program that takes place over one day in a hospital. In addition to the usual lectures, videos and discussions, participants are guided by a nurse through the emergency rooms, ICU and morgue and have talks with healthcare staffers with experience treating crash victims. They also engage in activities like developing a contract with parents.

The participants admitted in a questionnaire that they called and texted frequently while on the road. Few thought that listening to the radio, for example, or having other teens as passengers could be considered risky behavior. Most were referred to the program via disciplinary action by a court, a school administrator or their parents.

Researchers found that by the end of the program, teens had increased risk awareness, especially of speeding, and recognized the role of peer influence in behaviors like drinking and driving. Parents also increased monitoring afterwards, and there were fewer instances of parents disciplining their teens for rule-breaking.

However, such reality-based programs remain a supplement and have not been incorporated into drivers’ education proper. Negligence will always be an issue, but those who are injured in a car accident through little or no fault of their own may be able to receive damages. Under the state’s comparative negligence rule, anyone who is 50 percent or less at fault for a two-car crash can file a claim. It may be helpful to hire a lawyer, especially for negotiations.