A qualitative study of college students' perceptions of risky driving and social influences

  • Published: Watters, S.E. and Beck, K.H., 2015
  • Authors: Watters, S.E. and Beck, K.H.
  • Date Added: 07 Apr 2016
  • Last Update: 07 Apr 2016
  • Format: pdf


The purpose of the study was to assess the risk perceptions of young drivers regarding dangerous driving behaviours.


Qualitative research was undertaken; the sample included:

  • n = 25 undergraduate students between the ages of 18 and 22 years
  • 4 focus groups (5-8 students per group)

Key themes and topics of discussion were identified through a detailed coding procedure.

Key Findings:

  • The key topics identified related to driving behaviours, rationalisations, influence attempts, passengers and the law.

  • Distracted driving and drink driving were the most discussed behaviours in focus groups. Some findings showed that participants felt that certain behaviours, such as texting at red lights or when stopped, were acceptable.

  • Speeding was also discussed, but participants felt that speeding may not be equally as dangerous on different types of roads or in different situations. Driving slowly was believed to me more dangerous than speeding.

  • Although for many behaviours there was a belief that in some cases, it may be acceptable to undertake risky behaviours, speeding in particular was viewed as being justifiable.

  • Not all respondents believed that it would be right to intervene if a friend/ family member was undertaking unsafe behaviours while driving.


qualitative research, speed as justifiable behaviour, common behaviours


Qualitative work with a small sample, however, the themes identified are in line with findings from previous research.