Dangerous Driving

Dangerous Driving by Parents

Dangerous Driving by Teenagers


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

New research from SADD and Liberty Mutual Insurance reveals an alarming statistic relative to “do what I say, not what I do”, for distracted and dangerous driving. Sixty-six percent of teens believe their parents follow different rules behind the wheel than the ones they set for their children. Approximately 90 percent of teens report that their parents speed and talk on a cell phone while driving.
Specifically, the survey found that 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 seatbelt. 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. 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.

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

“These findings highlight the need for parents to realize how their teens perceive their actions,” says Dave Melton, a driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance and its managing director of global safety. “Kids are always observing the decisions parents make behind the wheel and may see unsafe driving as acceptable,” he said.

Similar to past data showing the power of teens to correct poor driving behavior by peers, the same holds true for their parents. Nearly three-quarters (70 percent) of the teens surveyed reported that their parents listen to them and change their poor driving behavior, when they point out dangerous driving practices. Unfortunately, many teens are not comfortable correcting their peers or their parents.

We should empower young people to make their discomfort with unsafe driving known to drivers, whoever they are! Ongoing family dialogue about rules for the road applying to everyone will help keep families safe.

Indeed, more than a decade of research by SADD and Liberty Mutual points to the potency of open, honest conversations between parents and teens . . . conversations often made easier and more effective by the signing of behavior contracts that make clear the expectations for both sides. This way, “Do as I say” becomes synonymous with “Do as I do.”