Youth and risky driving practices

A qualitative investigation of 17-24 year-old youths’ risk behavior e.g. under the influence of alcohol or drugs, at high speed etc in relation to driving


The overall aim with the study is to generate qualitative, everyday-life based knowledge about what makes 17-24 year-old youths in different parts of Denmark engage in risky driving practices, i.e. intoxicated driving, driving without seat belt, driving while using a mobile phone, and/or driving too fast. Furthermore, an aim with the study is to identify factors which may potentially prevent risky driving, amongst other things when, how and why other young people interfere (or do not interfere) with their peer’s risky driving practices.


17-24 year-old youths - particularly young men - and particularly young people living outside of larger towns and cities are overrepresented in serious and harmful car accidents. Existing studies show that these accidents relate heavily to risk factors such as those mentioned above: substance use, high speed, inattention due to mobile phone use, and driving without seat belt. With the present study, we aim to produce knowledge on basis of these young people’s own everyday-focused narratives about cars, driving and traffic related behavior, with which we become able to gain insight into why and in which situations they engage in risky driving, as well as how they, and their peers, relate to and experience such practices. We will investigate these questions with a particular focus on how gender-related and geographical matters relate to risky driving.

The Study

The study is based empirically on 30 semi-structured qualitative interviews with 17-27 year-old drivers, who:

a) Have recent experiences with minimum two of the above mentioned risk behaviors (speed, inattention, no seat belt, alcohol- or drug use). And/or:

b) Have friends who engage in such risky driving practices. Prior to the interviews, all participants were screened with the purpose of identifying potential risky driving experiences.

The study runs from February to December 2019.


The study is funded by collaboration with Danish Road Safety Council.


Danish Road Safety Council (Lise Heiner Schmidt og Bjørn Olsson) and Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen (Jakob Demant).




Else-Marie Elmholdt

Member of Administrative Staff