When you’re behind the wheel, what else are you doing besides driving? It’s worth asking, because if you think no one’s watching your actions, think again: A new study shows that your teens might not only be observing your driving habits – they could be copying them.
According to a survey of more than 1,700 teens from Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), an alarming percentage of adolescents have witnessed their parents take risks like texting, speeding and even driving under the influence of alcohol. What’s more, the teens surveyed are doing just what mom and dad are doing in nearly equal measure (view/download our accompanying infographic here).
Of the teens involved in the survey, a stunning 91 percent responded that their parents talk on a cell phone while driving; 88 percent reported that their parents speed, and 59 percent indicated that they text message from behind the wheel. And while past Liberty Mutual and SADD reports demonstrated that parents are teens’ primary driving influence, nearly half of teenaged respondents (47 percent) in this most recent report said that their parents have driven at least occasionally without a seatbelt, while 20 percent reported that their parents have driven under the influence of alcohol (and 7 percent under the influence of marijuana).
It’s no surprise that two-thirds of teens feel there’s a double standard at work: Their parents live by different rules than the ones they drill into kids at home.
A side-by-side comparison shows that teens are doing nearly the same things as their parents. A whopping 90 percent reported talking on a cell phone while driving, and 94 percent admitted to speeding (at least occasionally), with nearly half (47 percent) speeding often or very often. Nearly 80 percent of teens reported sending text messages while driving, 16 percent said they have driven after using marijuana, 15 percent have driven under the influence of alcohol and 33 percent reported driving without a seatbelt.
An encouraging finding was that when teens confronted their parents on bad driving habits, parents were likely to stop – although few teens indicated that they would actually speak up. In fact, only 21 percent responded that they would ask their parents to stop driving while under the influence of alcohol, even though 70 percent of those that have confronted their parents reported that they listened and changed their behavior.
It turns out that the Parent/Teen Driving Contract that Liberty Mutual and SADD have promoted may be as beneficial for parents as for teens. The contract is a customized agreement that lets you create your own family driving rules. Parents and teens agree on the rules, sign it, and post it in a prominent place so there’s no question about what behavior is allowable – and what isn’t.
Considering the survey results, do you have cause for concern about what your teens might be doing behind the wheel? What personal behavior would you change?