As parents we’re familiar with being role models for our children,
especially when they’re young. But how effective are we as role
models for our teenaged children, particularly those who have their driver’s licenses?
According to findings from a national study of teen drivers conducted by the
University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the parents of teen drivers play a very important role in terms of their
influence as role models. The study found a significant correlation between
the way teenagers drive and the way their parents drive.
The study involved more than 2,600 newly licensed drivers between the ages
of 16 and 18 and 3,000 parents of drivers in this same age group. The
researchers found that teens who frequently drove while distracted had
parents who exhibited the same kind of behavior while driving.
Interestingly, what teen drivers believed their parents did while driving
had more of an impact on teen driving behavior than what parents actually
reported doing. According to one of the researchers, believing their parents
engaged in more distracted driving behaviors than they actually did may
help teen drivers to justify engaging in the same high-risk behaviors
Over 50 percent of the teen drivers said they used a cell phone while driving,
while 60 percent of the parents reported cell phone use while driving.
Twenty-five percent of teens reported responding to texts while driving
and 30 percent reported reading texts. Among parents, nearly 10 percent
responded to texts while driving and 13 percent read texts or emails.
An astonishing 20 percent of teens and ten percent of parents said they
had held extended, multi-message text conversations while driving.
Distraction among teens was not limited to cell phone conversations and
texting. The study also found that more than 50 percent of teens searched
for music on electronic devices while driving, while ten percent checked
or updated social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.
Distracted driving carries with it potentially tragic consequences. Parents
of teenaged drivers can have a significant influence on their children’s
driving behaviors. One teen safe-driving expert’s advice? Be the
driver you want your teen to be.