Teens learn bad driving behaviors from parents

Those crazy teenage drivers! Who taught them to do that? As it turns out, they learn most of those bad habits from mom and dad. A new study by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) found that most of the dangerous things that teens do behind the wheel were modeled for them by adults, especially texting and cell phone use.

The results from the survey of 1,700 teen drivers will set safety experts’ teeth on edge. Ninety one percent say their parents talk on the cell phone while driving, although not all the time. About 88 percent speed, and 59 percent text while driving. When it comes to seatbelt use, 47 percent said their parents have driven, at least occasionally, without a seatbelt. Twenty percent say mom and /or dad have been under the influence of alcohol behind the wheel, and seven percent of parents drove under the influence of marijuana. Not surprisingly, 66 percent of teenagers say their parents have different sets of rules for themselves when it comes to risky driving behavior.

There is no question that young drivers are mimicking their parents’ driving habits. Cell phone use is ubiquitous; 91 percent of teens ‘fessed up to phoning while driving. Speeding is also common, with 94 percent reporting that they break the limit at least some of the time, and 47 percent admitting they speed a lot. When it comes to driving drunk or not wearing a seatbelt, teens are a little more cautious. Only 33 percent have driven unbelted, and 15 percent have used alcohol. But driving while stoned is double the rate of their parents. Fourteen percent report smoking marijuana while behind the wheel.

Based on this new data, it seems that parents should take a hard look in the mirror before criticizing their children’s’ driving habits. Part of the teen’s education should include a frank discussion of the liabilities that come with reckless driving. The kids understand that they can be killed or seriously injured in a crash, but they may not realize their parent’s heartbreak will be compounded by lawsuits resulting from accidents they cause, and injuries to others. Next time the phone rings in traffic, maybe it’s better to let the call go to voicemail.

Source: Claims Journal, “Teens mirror parents distracted driving habits,” Sep. 20, 2012