Allstate: Most Parents Wish They Trained Teen Drivers More

The role of parents is at the forefront of a new study on young motorists from the Allstate Foundation, which is partnering with the National Safety Council (NSC) for a campaign that highlights the impact parents can have on teen driver safety in their child’s earliest years behind wheel.

Car crashes are the leading killer of teenagers in the U.S., according to federal experts, but the insurer’s study found that about 4 out of every 10 parents are unaware of that fact.

The study also found a significant disconnect between what parents know about traffic safety and what they allow their child to do behind the wheel.

For example, nearly all surveyed parents said that they believed that it was “very important” for teens to be aware of the dangers of driving at night and with passengers, yet around 1 in 3 parents said they hadn’t “adequately covered these items with their teens.”

Even worse, parents hardly monitor their child’s driving, according to the survey, with around 1 in 3 parents saying they didn’t require their teen to ask before getting behind the wheel.

Parents Carry Weight but Express ‘Regret’

The significance of a parent’s role in their child’s driving is indisputable, said Vicky Dinges, Allstate’s vice president of social responsibility, in a statement, with the insurance company’s research showing that “parents are the No. 1 source of information for teen drivers.”

Yet Allstate’s survey found that parents say they are not spending enough time training their teen on safe driving.

Almost half of parents said that they regretted “not monitoring their teen driver after they get a license” and more than 2 out of every 3 parents said they wished “they spent more time practicing driving with their teen in high-risk situations.”

The NSC and Allstate said the availability of help is important to parents, most of whom say they want more resources to aid in young driver safety. Drive It Home, a “by parents, for parents” campaign, provides such resources, including a recommendation that teens have a weekly minimum of 30 minutes driving with a parent when they first get their license.

According to the campaign, training should focus on these specific skills:
–Scanning the road ahead to recognize and respond to hazards
–Controlling speed, stopping, turning and following distance
–Judging the gap between vehicles in traffic, such as exiting parking lots and left-hand turns
–Managing the highest risks, such as night driving and driving with young passengers

Drive It Home also approaches the topic with light-hearted skits and shows that will reach 14 cities from Phoenix to Fort Myers.

In one humorous clip from Drive It Home, a mother substitutes “the talk” about driver safety with a “role play” with her son behind the wheel.

The son, mocking his mother, yells “who raised you I hope you see me in your nightmares” at a driver who cuts him off.

“I only say those things as an example of what not to do,” says the mother.

Parents: An Example for Good or Bad?

Previous studies have supported the fact that parents play a crucial role in how their teen drives; whether that yields good or bad results on the roadways is still up for debate.

A survey published last year by State Farm showed a large gap of parental communication between teen drivers who texted behind the wheel and those who didn’t.

But that same survey also identified significantly less communication among parents once their teenage driver receives their driver’s license.

Safety experts have found that the highest crash risk over a driver’s lifetime is during his or her first year of licensure. Allstate echoed the sentiment, saying in its recent report that the year following a teen’s licensure is “one of the deadliest years in a person’s life.”

Chris Mullen, State Farm’s director of technology research, pressed the need for “ongoing parental involvement.”

Insurance carriers, behind myriad studies on the topic of young drivers, have a stake in teen driver safety because younger drivers are typically charged the more for insurance coverage to match the risk they are known for behind the wheel. The higher-than-average price of teenage car insurance will likely stay the course as long as claims data continually support the correlation between the nation’s youngest motorists and dangerous habits behind the wheel like lack of seat belt use, distractions and speeding.

Other surveys from insurance companies have found that talks between a parent and teen about safety may be fruitless without application.

A collaborative survey that included Liberty Mutual showed that parents were teens’ “primary driving influence,” but most surveyed teens had seen their parents use a cell phone, speed or text “at least occasionally.”

Glenn Greenberg, a spokesman for the insurance provider, said in an interview when the study was published last year that parents lose legitimacy when promoting traffic safety for their teen if they exhibit bad habits themselves.

“They’re essentially saying that it’s OK,” Greenberg said about parents who engage in dangerous driving habits.

Even more alarming is that parents’ “do as I say, not as I do” attitudes may reinforce the same attitudes in their children, according to a survey released last month from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. That survey highlighted a “culture of indifference” among teen drivers, who generally believed that certain driving habits like texting were dangerous but often engaged in those habits themselves.

Other research has suggested that the solution lies outside of the parent-child relationship. A study published this month from medical experts identified a mixture of legislative and law enforcement shortfalls in reducing cell phone usage in cars, saying a device disabling cell phones when the vehicle is in use may be the only way to meaningfully reduce distracted driving.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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