Many distracted driving awareness messages focus particularly on teen safety, and with good reason. For one, teens are the newest generation of motorists and have the ability to change the nation’s future driving habits. They are also the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes.
Where is the bad behavior coming from? New survey results shine the spotlight on another group that might be to blame for many teens’ distracted driving habits.
EverQuote’s 2017 Family Safe Driving Report compares distracted driving behavior and sentiment among parents and teen drivers. Researchers for the company surveyed 1,183 American teen drivers ages 14 to 18 and 1,500 parents of teen drivers in the same age group. The survey found that parents worry far more about distracted driving than teens do. More specifically:
- 74% of parents surveyed worry more about their teen driving distracted than driving drunk.
- 21% of teens surveyed believe that driving distracted is more dangerous than driving drunk.
However, the same parents’ driving habits may be setting a bad example for teen drivers despite having far more concern about the dangers. A whopping 63 percent of parents surveyed admitted to checking a mobile app, texting or taking a phone call while driving. On the other hand, 30 percent of the teens surveyed admitted to having the same habits.
The survey findings have serious implications for the root of teen driving behavior. Nearly one in four of the teens don’t believe their parents’ driving habits set a good example for them — whether texting or calling when their teen is driving or by engaging in risky driving behavior while their teen is a passenger.
End Distracted Driving (EndDD.org) Founder Joel Feldman has noted this “parental hypocrisy” in an article for Huffpost. He shared the following insight from his distracted driving presentations:
“In speaking with parents about distracted driving at businesses and conferences I ask parents to raise their hands if they would do anything to keep their children safe and every hand is raised. I then ask them to keep their hands up only if they don’t drive distracted with their kids in the car. Nearly every hand is lowered and many parents’ faces reflect embarrassment and shame. Between 70-80% of students in attendance at my presentations publicly admit that their moms and dads drive distracted, but tell them not to do so.”
Simply put, to motivate safe driving habits in their teens, parents strictly cannot drive distracted. Feldman offers the following advice: “We need to tell our children we were wrong to have driven distracted and ask for their help in reminding us not to drive distracted. But avoid the temptation to lecture them about their driving. This conversation needs to be about your driving, not your child’s. By enlisting our children’s help to make us safer drivers and by being the drivers we want our children to be, we will go a long way toward keeping our children safe.”
If you’re a parent, talk to your kids about their driving behavior as well as your own, and consider making an official agreement. EndDD.org offers a free, printable driving agreement all driving-age family members can sign. Holding each other accountable will level the playing field and ensure everyone sticks to better driving habits.
About John Bair
John Bair is an experienced settlement planner and financial consultant with a passion for ending distracted driving. As a frequent EndDD.org volunteer, he has spoken to audiences around the country. To assist others in raising awareness, John has written numerous guides and articles about giving successful EndDD.org presentations in schools, business, and community settings. He is a proud board member of the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.enddd.org/.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).