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Your Kids are Watching… It’s Important To Model Good Driving Habits

A new study conducted by Toyota and the University of Michigan has found that when it comes to distracted driving, if your kids even “think” that you are driving distracted they are likely to do the same when they get behind the wheel.
The studies authors also report that teens are under the impression that their parents are much worse drivers than they actually are. The study interviewed over 400 teen-parent pairs that were living in the same household to reach their conclusions.
In a recent press release Ray Bingham, a research professor with the study said, “Overall, teens think that their parents engage in distracted driving behaviors more often than may be the case, which may allow them to justify certain high-risk behaviors behind the wheel”
In a breakdown of distracted driving behaviors, the study found that teens believe their parents engage in the following behaviors:

  • 32 percent – Use a music device while driving.
  • 71 percent – Read or write down directions while driving.
  • 85 percent – deal with passenger issues.

All of these percentages were higher than what parents actually reported. The study found that teens tend to engage in risky behavior based on their “beliefs” of what their parents are doing, not on the actual behavior their parents are modeling.
As an example, teens whose parents eat or drink while driving a car were 2.2 times more likely to do the same than teens with parents who did not eat or drink while driving; but teens who “think” their parents were snacking behind the wheel were 3.4 times more likely to engage in the same behavior. This pattern was repeated when other behaviors such as dealing with passengers and searching for items in the car were examined.
Teens were not the only ones misjudging behaviors. Only one percent of the parents were convinced their teen was reading or sending texts while driving but a whopping 26 percent of teens admitted to engaging in that behavior when behind the wheel.
A recent Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) study found many of the same results. Their study focused on connections between parents, teen drivers and distracted driving. It examined what teens actually saw their parents doing while driving and concluded that teens engage in bad habits behind the wheel that mirrored the rates of their parents.
The SADD study found that 91 percent of the teens surveyed reported seeing their parent talk on a phone while driving. When asked about their own driving habits, 90 percent of the teens admitted to talking on the phone while driving.
These studies will hopefully help parents and local governments convince teens that distracted driving is a dangerous behavior. Currently 39 states ban all drivers from texting while driving and 32 states ban new drivers from using a cellphone at all. Enforcement can be sporadic and these laws are often difficult to enforce.
The federal government is pushing to increase awareness of distracted driving issues as well as toughen graduated driver license laws to keep young inexperienced drivers off their phones when behind the wheel. New York recently made distracted driving a major law enforcement initiative, upping the penalty to 3 points on your license. In most cases 3 points on your license would affect insurance rates.
New released studies show that teens are affected not only by behaviors they see their parents engaging in but also behaviors that they “think” their parents engage in. Modeling good driving habits is key for any parent who wants to keep their teen safe during those dangerous first years behind the wheel.

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