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Teens have more relaxed definitions for what counts as distracted, dangerous driving behaviour


March 18, 2014   by Canadian Underwriter


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Teenage drivers tend to have different, often more relaxed definitions for what it means to engage in certain distracted or dangerous driving behaviour, according to a new survey out of the United States, commissioned by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).

The vast majority (96%) of teens said they understand that using a cell phone while driving – either talking or texting – is at least slightly distracting, according to the study, based on qualitative and quantitative research including about 2,500 teens in the U.S.

However, 86% still admit to using their mobile phone behind the wheel, and 68% admit to reading or replying to text messages while driving. Among those who said they never text while driving, 47% still admitted to doing so at a red light or stop sign.

The majority (86%) did say they consider driving under the influence of alcohol to be extremely or very distracting, while only 1% define driving under the influence of alcohol as acceptable. Additionally, only 5% admit to at least sometimes driving under the influence of alcohol, according to the study.

However, one in 10 teens who said they never drive under the influence said they do occasionally drive after having an alcoholic drink.

Among those who admitted to driving under the influence, 68% said they have done so after having more than three drinks.

While nearly half (47%) of teens said they use a designated driver, that definition isn’t necessarily the same among all young drivers, the survey results suggest.

Twenty-one percent of teens defines their designated driver as someone allowed to have “a little” alcohol or other drugs, as long as they aren’t too impaired to drive, and 4% defined that person as the “most” sober of the group.

“With teens reporting these lax definitions of what it means to be ‘under the influence,’ a zero tolerance approach is the only answer to prevent potential tragedy,” Stephen Gray Wallace, senior advisor for policy, research and education at SADD noted in a press release.

“The parents and community have a responsibility to initiate and maintain an open dialogue with teens about exactly what driving under the influence means.”