Teenage drivers’ lack of experience is compounded by bad habits, such as talking on the phone, texting, eating, speeding, drinking and driving, and other dangerous activities.
How do teen drivers develop these unsafe driving behaviors? In many cases, they learn them directly from their own parents.
Many adult motorists engage in aggressive driving, speeding, distracted driving and other unsafe practices. Years of experience behind the wheel may give seasoned drivers the false impression that they can handle the hazards. However, new drivers lack experience and may face a greater risk when engaging in similar behaviors.
Parents set a powerful example for their teenage children who are new drivers. Parents should drive safely to be good models for their children.
Parents and Teens: The Facts About Dangerous Driving Habits
Research from the National Safety Council reveals that teen drivers model their driving conduct after what they observe in their parents. In fact, parents are the primary role models for teens in all aspects of driving behavior.
When you drive your children to school or other activities, they are watching and listening to everything you do. If you speed, tailgate, drive aggressively, talk endlessly on phone, fail to come to a full stop, run red lights or take other risky actions, you can expect your child to do exactly the same thing – but without the experience from years of driving.
Although experience is no excuse for bad driving behavior, a seasoned driver is usually more aware of the potential dangers than a young driver is. It is imperative that parents make the decision to drive safely and follow the rules of the road if they want their teenagers to stay safe once they reach driving age.
Are Parents Listening?
The National Safety Council study revealed that teens often ask their parents to change their bad driving habits. Forty percent of parents reported that their teens have asked them to stop driving without a seat belt, 33 percent report their teen has asked them to stop texting while driving, 26 percent say that their teen has asked them to stop speeding, and 23 percent say that their teen has asked them to stop posting updates on social media while behind the wheel.
Despite pleas from their teenage children, surveys reveal that parents – and teens – admit to dangerous practices behind the wheel.
|Parents who admit to …||Teens who admit to …|
|Talking on cell phone while driving||91%||90%|
|Texting and driving||59%||78%|
|Drinking and driving||20%||15%|
|Not wearing seat belt||47%||33%|
|Driving under influence of marijuana||7%||16%|
Risky Decisions: How Teens Learn From Parents
A recent survey conducted by SADD (Students Against Destructive Driving) revealed vital data about how teen drivers learn driving behaviors directly from their parents.
The research involved more than 1,700 teen drivers across the nation who were surveyed about their parents’ driving habits. The survey revealed that parents often expect their children to follow a different set of rules from the ones they follow themselves – a “do as I say, not as I do” approach.
Since parents are the main role models for their children’s driving conduct, this approach is dangerous. It puts young drivers at a much higher risk of being involved in a serious accident, including one that injures or kills others.
Parents who want to protect their children from making dangerous or deadly driving decisions must change their own behavior.
Distracted Driving: An Epidemic for Teen Drivers – and Adults.
The shocking fact is that vehicle accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for teenagers, with more than 3,000 young people losing their lives every year.
With 1.3 million crashes related to cell phone use in a recent year, distracted driving plays a significant role in the high number of car crashes involving teen drivers. Distracted driving includes visual distractions, when the driver takes his or her eyes off the road; manual distractions, when the driver takes his or her hands off the steering wheel; and cognitive distractions, when the driver takes his or her attention off driving.
Reading or sending a text message makes a car crash up to 23 times more likely. Despite the evidence to the contrary, 77 percent of young drivers are either very or somewhat confident that they can safely text while operating a vehicle, and 55 percent of these drivers claim it is easy to text while they are driving.
Teenage Drivers Involved in Fatal Crashes by Age and Type of Crash
|Age of driver||Single vehicle||Percent of total crashes||Multiple vehicle||Percent of total crashes||All crashes|
What to Do to Change Driving Habits
If you know that you, as a parent, have exhibited bad driving behavior, your first step is to engage in a discussion with your teenagers about it. Admit your mistakes, and make an agreement that you will no longer make dangerous decisions while driving.
Put your teenagers in charge of correcting your driving – and listen to them. If you spend drive time with your children chatting on the phone, change this behavior and use the time to discuss safe driving, showing your children what you are doing behind the wheel and why. For example, say, “I’m checking the left lane in my mirror because I know I need to merge so I can turn left. I always shoulder-check before I turn to make sure nothing is in my blind spot.”
You can make a difference in keeping your children safe when they begin driving. A great deal of responsibility for teens’ safe driving rests directly on their parents’ shoulders. Take on the challenge and set a good example. Your child will appreciate it, and what you do now could save a life.
- Drive It Home – Why aren’t parents setting good driving examples?
- SADD – Teens Mirror Parents’ Distracted Driving Habits
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – Teenagers: Driving carries extra risk for them.
- Texting and Driving Safety – DWI: Driving While Intexticated