Insurance Survey: Many Parents Drive Distracted in front of Teens

A new State Farm survey finds that American parents are not so good at following their own advice about using cellphones behind the wheel, bolstering other recent reports that not even Mom and Dad are sure they’re the best driving instructors for teenagers.

Fifty-four percent of teens surveyed said they have seen their folks using a phone while driving either “sometimes, often or all the time,” and 43 percent of parents admitted they have set that bad example at least sometimes, according to a poll released this week.

Texting, talking on cellphones and other forms of distracted driving are to blame for thousands of deaths and injuries each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

NHTSA says that in 2009, nearly 5,500 people were killed and another nearly 450,000 were injured on U.S. roadways as a result of distracted driving, which includes other activities such as eating or drinking behind the wheel and changing radio stations.

Safety experts say teenagers are more likely than other motorists to drive distracted. That is one of the reasons teens are generally considered a greater risk than other drivers to insure and that affordable car insurance for teenagers can be difficult for families to find.

According to the State Farm survey, 61 percent of teenagers say their parents have been distracted at least once while in the passenger seat during a driving lesson by a cell phone or other electronic device, and 29 percent said it has happened more frequently.

More than half of adult respondents confessed to the distraction, and 17 percent said it has occurred anywhere from sometimes to all the time.

“These results are troublesome on multiple levels,” Laurette Stiles, vice present for strategic resources at State Farm, said in a news release. “Parents should know that how they handle themselves behind the wheel creates a powerful example for their teens—for better or worse.”

The survey, which is based on online interviews with 517 sets of parents and teenagers, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent, according to State Farm. The results provide support for other recent surveys that show not all parents are convinced they should be teaching their teens how to drive.

According to an Allstate Insurance survey released last month, 53 percent of parents thought a professional driving instructor would do a better job with lessons than they would. Mothers and fathers cited the belief that instructors would have more patience and a firmer grasp of the rules of the road and that teens would listen more closely to them.

Seventy-three percent of adult respondents said the possibility of their teen being distracted by text messaging or friends worried them “a great deal,” while 61 percent said other drivers were a major concern, 59 percent cited their children’s inexperience as a major issue and half worried about their kids drinking and driving.

A 2008 State Farm survey found that 60 percent of parents admitted to nervousness about teaching their teens to drive and only one-third of teens considered their folks “very good” instructors.


To research how State Farm performs when handling claims, consumers can read user-submitted State Farm auto insurance reviews online.

About Gregor McGavin
Gregor McGavin is an award-winning journalist who has reported across the country for such publications as The Associated Press, the Arizona Republic, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Press-Enterprise.

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