Study: Teens Using Parents’ Habits to Justify Distracted Driving

Parents’ actions are influential on their children, but when it comes to distracted driving, simply thinking that parents are driving distracted can influence teens to do the same, according to a new study from Toyota and the University of Michigan.

Researchers also found that teens believe their parents are much worse drivers than they actually are. The study, released this week, included interviews with 400 teen-parent pairs from the same households.

“Overall, teens think that their parents engage in distracted driving behaviors more often than may be the case, which may allow them to justify certain high-risk behaviors behind the wheel,” Ray Bingham, one of the study’s research professors, said in a statement.

According to the findings, the rates at which teens think their parents use music devices (32 percent), read or write directions while driving (71 percent) and deal with passenger issues (85 percent) were all higher than what parents reported doing.

And what teens think their parents are doing may actually make them more likely to drive distracted than what their parents actually do.

For example, teens of parents who do eat or drink while driving were 2.2 times more likely to do the same than those whose parents did not report engaging in that behavior; but teen respondents who reported they “think” their parents eat or drink behind the wheel were 3.4 times more likely to do so than teens who don’t think their parents eat or drink while driving.

The same pattern was seen in other behaviors, including searching for things and dealing with passengers while driving.

At the same time, the study found that parents also misjudge their teen drivers’ habits. Just 1 percent of parents reported believing their teen reads or sends a text at least once every car ride; 26 percent of teens reported doing so.

Liberty Mutual partnered with Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) for a recent study that explored similar connections between parents, teens and distracted driving. That study, however, focused on what teens reported seeing their parents doing, and found that rates at which teens engaged in certain bad habits behind the wheel mirrored the rates that they reported seeing their parents doing the same.

For example, that study found that 91 percent of surveyed teens reported seeing their parents talk on a cell phone while driving while 90 percent reported doing so themselves.

Texting Behind the Wheel Has Varying Insurance Implications

Thirty-nine states bar all drivers from texting while driving and 32 states bar new drivers from using a cellphone behind the wheel in any capacity. But different states and insurance companies apply different enforcement measures.

For instance, a texting ticket can sometimes carry a fine, while others carry fines and a moving-violation-related point charged to a driving record that some insurers consider reason to raise their rates on a policyholder.

New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made distracted driving a major law enforcement issue, charges a relatively harsh three-point penalty for each texting citation.

The presence of points from a texting ticket can run up your quote for auto coverage right off the bat. An OnlineAutoInsurance.com comparison of car coverage quotes analyzed the impact that tickets for texting while driving would have on insurance rates.

The analysis of quotes from three insurers showed that:

–At one insurer, a texting ticket increased insurance rates by 10.5 percent overall.
–At the second insurer, a texting ticket increased insurance rates by 9.1 percent overall.
–At the third insurer, a texting violation did not show any impact on insurance quotes.

About John Pirro
John Pirro is a licensed fire and casualty insurance agent specializing in various aspects of the auto insurance industry. He worked in the auto body repair industry before taking a reporting position at Online Auto Insurance News.

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