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POV: Now is the time to talk about driving

The author is senior advisor for policy, research, and education at SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and director of the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) at Susquehanna University.

With the holidays rapidly approaching, many teenagers will be behind the wheel visiting family and friends … and often copying the driving behavior of their parents. But, is that a good thing? Not necessarily.

New research from SADD and Liberty Mutual Insurance reveals an alarming example of do what I say, not what I do when it comes to distracted and dangerous driving. For example, 66 percent of teens believe their parents follow different rules behind the wheel than they set for their children, with approximately 90 percent of teens reporting that their parents speed and talk on a cell phone while driving.

Parent Driving Behavior

Specifically, the survey found teens observe their parents exhibiting the following driving behavior at least occasionally:

• 91 percent talk on a cell phone

• 88 percent speed

• 59 percent text message;

• 20 percent drive after drinking alcohol

• 7 percent drive after using marijuana

In addition, teens report that nearly half of parents (47 percent) sometimes drive without a seat belt.

What’s the harm?

Prior driving research from SADD and Liberty Mutual points out that parents are the number one influence on teen driving behavior.

Teen Driving Behavior

Thus, it may be no surprise that teens repeat these driving behaviors in almost equal numbers to their parents:

• 90 percent talk on a cell phone

• 94 percent speed

• 78 percent send text messages

Also, 15 percent of teens report driving after using alcohol.

Modeling Driving Behaviors

In short, the link between the observed and self-reported driving behaviors indicates that parents are modeling destructive driving and that their teens are following suit.

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