A study released by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. found that parents who engaged in distracted driving behaviours had teenagers who modeled the same behaviour. Dr. Ray Bingham, head of UMTRI's Young Driver Behaviour and Injury Prevention Group says, “[p]arents should know that every time they get behind the wheel with their child in the car they are providing a visible example that their child is likely to follow.”
An interesting find from the study is that teens who think that their parents were engaged in distracted driving behaviours were more likely to engage in those behaviours themselves. For example, if parents reported looking for something in the vehicle while driving, their teen was twice as likely to do the same. However, if the teen thinks that their parents were looking for something in the car while driving, they were 4 times more likely to do the same. Bingham explains that “...teens think that their parent engage in distracted driving behaviours more often than may be the case, which may allow them to justify certain high-risk behaviours behind the wheel.”
Another worrisome finding from the study is that only 1% of parents surveyed said that their teens texted while driving, yet 26% of teens surveyed indicated that they read or send a text message at least once every time they drive.
“Driver education begins the day a child's car seat is turned around to face front,” said Dr. Tina Sayer, teen safe driving expert and principal engineer at the Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center. “[T]he one piece of advice I would give to parents to help them keep newly licensed drivers safe on the road is to always be the driver you want your teen to be.”
These findings are still preliminary and more data from the study will analyzed for a few months yet.
Image via Stonebridge Church of God - Ozark, Ala.