Objective Deaths and serious injuries among young drivers are an important public health concern. Road safety researchers and policy makers tend to focus on strategies to restrict the driving activities of young people. Other social research suggests the disadvantages experienced by young people in socially deprived groups are exacerbated by not having a driving licence or owning a car. In this qualitative study, we consider the views of young people from less affluent backgrounds in the south-west of England who took part in a brief intervention to encourage them to delay gaining a driving licence and car ownership.
Methods Between September 2011 and January 2012, a researcher observed four training sessions involving 173 young people. Postintervention, digitally recorded focus groups were conducted at three venues involving 23 randomly selected young people. Data from the focus group transcripts were sorted into charts in relation to key research questions and scrutinised using constant comparison.
Results These young people believed the ability to drive, and car ownership, could increase their independence, improve access to further education, widen their employment opportunities, and enable them to contribute to family or household responsibilities.
Conclusions We argue there is a potential conflict between some strategies seeking to promote young driver safety and the impact this may have on equity and social disadvantage. Interdisciplinary work is required between professionals and researchers in transport, road safety, public health and social equity. Government policies should include low-cost, safe, reliable and attractive transport alternatives for young people in more deprived communities.
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