Developing your identity as a young person

When it comes to road safety education, it’s important to be mindful that telling an adolescent or young adult who they should be, as opposed to who they are, is fraught with difficulty.

Insight from Durkin and Tolmie (2010)

“Forming an identity is a fundamental aspect of development, of particular significance through adolescence and early adulthood. An individual’s sense of identity, including desired self-image, can bear importantly on his or her attitudes towards road behaviour.”

Identity development and car ownership

“For many adults, driving and car ownership are important components of their identity. Identity development is a broad process extending from childhood to adulthood.”

Risk taking behaviours

“Among children, self-identities are associated with attitudes towards risk in pedestrian decision-making. In turn, self-identity factors are correlated strongly with a general measure of risk-taking and with attitudes towards pedestrian behaviours.”

Vehicles as status symbols

“During adolescence, the prospects of achieving driver status and possessing a particular type of vehicle – and driving it in a particular way – become motivating for many.”

Gender identity and self expression

“Gender identity is strongly linked to how young people equip and express themselves as road users. Driver status and vehicle attributes tend to be particularly important to young males and closely interwoven with aspects of male gender role identity, such as autonomy, power, and bravado.”

Effectively targeting young adults

“Information, education and training for pre-drivers should be formulated in ways which are sensitive to adolescents’ preoccupations and motivations with regard to identity.”

“Attempts to modify identity during mid to late adolescence, in particular, are emotionally arousing and often rejected.”

Note: These comments apply with equal force to young, novice drivers.