Canadian Underwriter

Teens mirror parents’ bad driving behaviour: U.S. study

September 18, 2012   by Canadian Underwriter

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A majority of teens included in a recent U.S. survey say their parents make risky choices while behind the wheel, though the same teens often mirror that behaviour.

In a new survey from Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), 66% of teens say their parents follow different rules when driving than what they set for their kids. 

The survey results also suggest that teens have observed their parents engaging in dangerous behaviour while driving, at least occasionally. According to the results, 91% talk on a cell phone, 88% speed and 59% text while driving.

Almost half (47%) also have driven at least occasionally without a seatbelt, 20% under the influence of alcohol and 7% under the influence of marijuana.

The surveyed teens repeat their parents’ poor habits in nearly equal amounts. According to the study, 90% of teens report taking on a cell phone while driving, and nearly 80% report texting while driving. About half report speeding often or very often, with 94% saying their speed at least occasionally.

Other standout figures for teens include:

  • 16% have driven after using marijuana
  • 15% have driven under the influence of alcohol
  • 33% report driving without a seatbelt

The percentages of observed parental driving habits and self-reported habits were often quite close.  

“These findings highlight the need for parents to realize how their teens perceive their actions,” Dave Melton, a driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance and managing director of global safety, notes.

“Your kids are always observing the decisions you make behind the wheel, and in fact have likely been doing so since they were big enough to see over the dashboard. You may think you only occasionally read a text at a stop light or take the odd thirty-second phone call, but kids are seeing that in a different way. Answering your phone once while driving, even if only for a few seconds, legitimizes the action for your children and they will, in turn, see that as acceptable behavior.”

The survey was conducted in early 2012 and included about 1,700 teens across the United States.