Applying Behavioral Health Models to Address Distracted Driving and Speeding in Texas

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Key Takeaways:

  • Car crashes cannot be addressed in isolation and instead benefit from cross-disciplinary approaches that utilize cross-sector partnerships, theories, and funding to enhance safety outcomes. 
  • Application of health intervention frameworks were utilized to address speeding and distracted driving within the greater Houston region. This approach focused on the development of training for both non-traffic safety stakeholders and youth to enhance safety within the region.
  • Cross-disciplinary and data-driven interventions have value and should be explored for further practical application within the transportation safety field. For example, intervention workshop recruitment efforts for this project were data-driven and based on a heat map of young driver crashes linked to driver’s licensing zip codes in the Greater Houston Metro Area.

Our Approach:

One of the most concerning areas in all of Texas is the Greater Houston area. Within the 25 districts of the Texas Department of Transportation, the Houston district (which encompasses 6 counties and over 6 million people) accounts for 26% of all Texas crashes. This is the highest percentage in the state among the districts (TxDOT, 2022). In Texas, speeding was the highest contributing factor to fatal and serious injury crashes among youth ages 11-25, representing 25% of all crashes, in 2020 (1).  The prevalence of distracted driving extends beyond the teenage years and increases as youth enter adulthood, showing a higher percentage of drivers 18 and older engaging in distracted driving behind the wheel (2). Therefore, the project team focused on addressing youth speeding and distracted driving-related behaviors within the Houston region.

Cross-disciplinary approaches within the field of transportation have often been recognized as vital to contributing to a reduction of motor vehicle crashes but are underutilized. In this framework, two agencies from both the transportation and public health sector were tasked with formulating a core project team to develop and implement a traffic safety intervention guided by a public health model known as Shared Risk and Protective Factors (SRPF). This project also featured guidance from two industry experts who served as coaches throughout the process. In addition to focusing on the SRPF approach, work within the project scope aimed to incorporate the theoretic framework known as the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) which has been identified as an effective strategy for addressing distractions and speeding (Safe States, 2019).


The traffic safety intervention measured was training for youth-serving stakeholders and youth ambassadors in Houston to improve attitudes towards driving safely, increase knowledge regarding behavior change, increase confidence in having traffic safety conversations, and reduce self-reported behaviors related to speeding and driving. Overall, among youth, there were more positive increases in metrics measuring attitude, intention, perceived control, and self-efficacy compared to adult participants. Comparatively, adult participants showed decreases in certain metrics such as intention and perceived control.

There were benefits from both the project framework and the intervention. The project benefited from a strong partnership between the transportation and health sectors which brought a diverse knowledge base and expertise. Pivoting from in-person to virtual workshops due to COVID, allowed the project team to explore untraditional approaches to traffic safety education through different online facilitation techniques. The intervention caused a 200% increase among young adults in their knowledge regarding behavior change and how it applies to traffic safety – which is a positive change in improving the health outcomes of young drivers.


For more information on this project, please contact:

Lisa Minjares-Kyle
Program Manager
Youth Transportation Safety Program
[email protected]

Project Title: Applying Behavioral Health Models to Address Distracted Driving and Speeding in Texas
Project Start and End Dates: March 1, 2020 – March 31, 2022
Author List: Lisa Minjares-Kyle, Gabriella Kolodzy, Sarah Beth Abbott (Memorial Hermann)
Sponsor/Funding Source: Safe States – Driver Behavior Change Seed Grant Program