Parents And Teens Engage in Same Dangerous Driving Behaviors

August 8, 2014

Teens are not the only culprits when it comes to making risky driving decisions, according to the latest data released from Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions).

A new survey shows that parents engage in the same dangerous driving behaviors – including driving without a seatbelt, texting and driving after consuming alcohol – that they warn their children against. Equally concerning, nearly half (41 percent) of teens say their parents continue these unsafe habits behind the wheel even after their teens ask them to stop.

“While parents may think they’re setting a good example for their teens, these findings suggest that some parents engage in unsafe driving habits more often than they might admit,” said Dave Melton, driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance and managing director of global safety. “Research shows that teens often replicate their parents’ poor driving behaviors, so it’s critical for the safety of everyone on the road that parents be a model for responsible driving whenever they are behind the wheel.”

Parents’ Risky Driving Behaviors

According to the survey, parents actually admit to engaging in many of the same dangerous – and in some cases, illegal – driving behaviors that they warn their own children against, often at alarmingly high rates:

  • Talking on cell phone while driving: 86 percent;
  • Speeding: 80 percent;
  • Texting and driving: 40 percent;
  • Driving after consuming alcohol: 34 percent;
  • Driving without a seat belt: 21 percent.

The data also reveals that the majority (83 percent) of teens say their parents engage in unsafe driving behaviors with them in the car, sometimes at higher rates than their parents like to admit. For example, 58 percent of teens say they have witnessed their parents texting and driving, and 41 percent have observed their parents driving without a seat belt.

Teens Speak Up, But Parents Don’t Listen

Teens are not only taking note of their parents’ risky driving behaviors, they are making concerted efforts to change them. Of the teens surveyed, 60 percent report they have asked their parents to put an end to dangerous driving habits, with texting and driving being the most common concern among teens (42 percent). Similarly, the majority of parents admit that their teens are speaking up:

  • 40 percent say their teen has asked them to stop driving without a seat belt;
  • 33 percent say their teen has asked them to stop texting and driving;
  • 26 percent say their teen has asked them to stop speeding; and
  • 23 percent say their teen has asked them to stop posting social media updates while driving.

According to the survey data, parents may not be taking these requests to heart. While the majority (84 percent) of parents say they change their driving behaviors when asked, nearly half (41 percent) of teens report that parents do not change their driving habits when requested to do so by their teens. Even more alarming is that more than a quarter (28 percent) of teens report that their parents justify why they should continue to engage in unsafe behaviors behind the wheel, while 12 percent report that their parents ignore them completely.

“The majority of teens learn to drive from their parents, and an open dialogue about safe behaviors on both sides is critical,” said Stephen Gray Wallace, senior advisor for policy, research and education at SADD. “If parents aren’t setting the right example for safe driving every time they’re behind the wheel, it’s probable that teens will learn and mimic those risky behaviors.”

About the Study
Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD commissioned ORC International to conduct a qualitative and quantitative methodology to measure teen driving attitudes and behaviors. The study was initiated with a series of focus groups held in Philadelphia, Pa., and Dallas, Texas from May 29 – May 30, 2013, followed by a survey of 2,537 eleventh and twelfth graders from across the country. Overall the findings from the study can be interpreted at a 95 percent confidence interval with an error margin of +/- 1.68 percent. Error margins for subsets such as licensed drivers will be wider. Additionally, the study surveyed 1,000 parents of high school aged teenage drivers, providing an overall error margin of +/- 2.94 percent.

Source: Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD

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