Survey: Teens Mirror Parents’ Bad Driving Habits

A survey released Tuesday from insurance carrier Liberty Mutual and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) found that most teens’ parents display hazardous driving habits—especially speeding, cell phone usage and texting—and that those teens repeat many of their parents’ mistakes.

According to the survey, the following percentage of teens observed their parents doing the following “at least occasionally”:

–91 percent have seen a parent talking on a cell phone while driving
–88 percent have seen them speeding
–59 percent have seen them texting
–47 percent have seen them drive without a seatbelt
–20 percent have seen them drive drunk
–7 percent have seen them drive under the influence of marijuana

The latest survey also found that 66 percent of respondents reported that “their parents live by different rules than the ones they expect of their teens.” Past research conducted by Liberty Mutual and SADD showed many teens consider parents to be “their primary driving influence.”

“We all know that teens behave differently in cars, but there are a lot of complicated reasons for that, and it’s worthwhile to engage teens themselves in unraveling the questions,” SADD president Penny Wells said in an email.

The latest report also surveyed teen’s observations of their own behavior, finding that:

–90 percent have talked on a cell phone while driving
–94 percent have engaged in speeding
–78 percent have texted
–33 percent have driven without a seatbelt
–15 percent have driven while drunk
–16 percent have driven while under the influence of marijuana

Liberty Mutual spokesman Glenn Greenberg said those rates of distracted and dangerous driving habits are in line with previous research from the insurance provider’s partnership with SADD, but added that the latest survey still yielded alarming results.

“What is surprising is how many kids do tell us, their parents, are following different driving rules them,” Greenberg said in an interview. “When mom and dad are texting and driving or other dangerous behaviors behind the wheel—whether they tell their kids it’s wrong or not—by demonstrating the action themselves they’re essentially saying that it’s OK.”

Another survey from AT&T and the Pew Research Center published similar results in May. That report found that almost all teens (97 percent) responded that they know texting is dangerous but almost half (43 percent) said they had texted before. That survey found that 41 percent of teens had seen their parents text behind the wheel.

States Taking Action against Texters

States around the U.S. are taking an increasingly stiff approach to texting and distracted driving as a whole. Currently, 39 states nationwide ban texting while driving, but penalties and fines vary.

Ohio’s recent prohibition went into effect late last month but comes with a six-month warning period in which no citations will be issued.

Alabama and Idaho also passed bills banning texting while driving in their respective legislative sessions.

Meanwhile, in California, Gov. Jerry Brown is deciding on SB 1310, which would raise the fine for texting and would charge a point to repeat violators’ driving records.

Multiple points on a driving record can invalidate the state-mandated insurance discount for drivers with good records. That means a motorist with several texting tickets who compares auto insurance prices will likely see inflated insurance premiums.

Texting More than a Legislative Issue

Greenberg said the insurance carrier applauds such legislative efforts, but added that distracted driving “is not just a legislative issue.”

“It involves driving laws, it involves law enforcement and it involves parents,” he said. “When all three are working together, that’s when we’ll see meaningful movement in lowering the prevalence of distracted driving.”

Wells echoed the sentiment, saying that the most recent research is meant to hit home with both teens and their parents, many of whom should “wake up about the messages they’re sending to their kids.”

“I heard from one of our board members with younger children yesterday that he was grateful for the release because he really hadn’t thought about the message of acceptable driving behavior he was sending to his children when he talked on the phone while driving,” she said.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for 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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