Behavior Change for Youth Drivers: Design and Development of a Smartphone-Based App (BackPocketDriver) Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND:The over-representation of youth in road crash injury and fatality rates is a major public health issue globally. In New Zealand, youth drivers are most vulnerable in the restricted license period when they can drive without the requirement for supervision by an experienced adult. Behavioral change interventions delivered using mobile phone technology to young drivers could serve as a useful mechanism to develop safe driving skills, but this potential remains to be fully explored. OBJECTIVE:This study aimed to apply behavioral change principles to design and develop a smartphone-based intervention with the aim of helping youth drivers to develop and hone safe driving skills. METHODS:An iterative process was used to support development of the smartphone intervention. We reviewed behavioral change literature, identifying fundamental principles and exploring use of behavior change techniques (BCTs) in other areas of public health. We engaged with key stakeholders, including young drivers, government agencies, and relevant organizations. We also took into account technology adoption considerations when designing the app. RESULTS:We developed BackPocketDriver (BPD), an Android smartphone app that uses in-built sensors to monitor and infer driver behavior. The app implements features that were identified during the design process and are traceable to BCTs and theory. A key feature is messaging, which is used to instruct, motivate, educate, and relay feedback to participants. In addition, messaging addresses attitudes and beliefs. Other features include journey feedback summaries, goal setting, achievements, and leaderboards. CONCLUSIONS:BPD's design rests on a sound foundation of theory and evidence. With explicit links between theory and features, the app aims to be an effective intervention to change and improve youth driver behavior. The next phase of this study is to run a small pilot study to assess BPD's effectiveness.


  • Warren, Ian
  • Meads, Andrew
  • Whittaker, Robyn
  • Dobson, Rosie
  • Ameratunga, Shanthi

publication date

  • 2018