Study Shows Teens “Inherit” Poor Driving Habits From Parents

According to a new study from Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), teens that engage in dangerous driving are not picking up poor habits on their own, but instead have observed their parents engage in them while riding as passengers. Out of more than 1,700 teens surveyed across the country, the vast majority pointed out a number of poor and dangerous driving habits exhibited by their parents.

The survey's results revealed that 91% of teens observed their parents talking on cell phones while driving, 88% observed their parents speeding, and 59% of parents were guilty of texting while driving. And beyond speeding and hot-topic driving hazards like cell phone use, almost half of the teens surveyed reported that they had witnessed their parents drive at least occasionally without a seatbelt. Even more disturbing was that 20% teens said they have observed their parents driving while under the influence of alcohol, while 7% have observed their parents drive under the influence of marijuana. The findings were disturbing, as teens practically mirrored their parents behavior in most categories.

Among the same 1,700 teens surveyed, 90% admitted to talking on their cell phones while driving, 94% admitted to speeding occasionally (while 47% said they speed often to very often), and nearly 80% admitted to sending text messages while driving. When it came to seatbelt use, 33% confessed that they have driven without a seatbelt. As far as driving under the influence, 15% of teens surveyed had driven under the influence of alcohol, while 16% had driven after using marijuana. For Liberty Mutual and SADD, the results provide a clear link between observed and self-reported driving behaviors.

Beyond a number of poor driving influences that teens admitted to witnessing from parents, 66% of teen drivers said that they are often instructed to "do as I say, not as I do" by their own parents when it comes to driving habits. According to Stephen Wallace, a senior advisor for policy research and education at SADD, this type of instruction from parents actually undermines the rules of the road they set for their teens. Wallace believes that the best instruction that a teen can receive when it comes to driving safely is for parents to set the example and become a good role model behind the wheel. Additionally, Wallace advises that parents should create an open dialogue about safe driving behavior with their teens, and also create and sing a parent/teen contract outlining in detail the types of positive driving habits both parties will adhere to when on the road.

Parent/teen contracts can be found on the Liberty Mutual website, or in most cases, on the website of your personal insurance provider.

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