Like Father, Like Son When It Comes To Distracted Driving, Study Finds


  • Distracted Driving Picture

    Distracted Driving Picture

    A new Driver Distraction Study finds that teens copy their parents when it comes to bad habits behind the wheel. | November 28, 2012

Just the Facts:
  • Parents are teaching their teen drivers some bad habits behind the wheel and are clueless as to how much their teen texts and drives, the landmark Driver Distraction Study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and Toyota reveals.
  • If a teen thinks a parent eats or drinks while driving, the teen is three times more likely to do the same.
  • Parents underestimate how much texting their teen driver does; teens read or send text messages once a trip 26 times more often than their parents think they do.

TORRANCE, California — Parents are teaching their teen drivers some bad habits behind the wheel and are clueless as to how much their teen texts and drives, the landmark Driver Distraction Study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and Toyota reveals.

The study found that parents who engage in distracting behaviors have teens that engage in distracting behaviors more frequently. The study is based on national telephone surveys of more than 5,500 young drivers and parents. It included interviews with 400 pairs of teens and parents from the same household.

"Driver education begins the day a child's car seat is turned around to face front," said Dr. Tina Sayer, Toyota's Collaborative Safety Research Center principal engineer, in a statement.

If a teen thinks a parent eats or drinks while driving, the teen is three times more likely to do the same. If a parent reports looking for something in the vehicle while driving, the teen is two times more likely to do the same.

The study also found that cell phone use by teen drivers is similar to parents. More than half of teens report that they use a handheld cell phone while driving, similar to the six in 10 parents who report that they do so.

In a disturbing study finding, parents underestimate how much texting their teen driver does; teens read or send text messages once a trip 26 times more often than their parents think they do. More than a quarter of teens read or send a text message at least once every time they drive versus the 1 percent of their parents who said their teen does this.

Teens may be inflating their parents' bad habits, the study concedes. A third of teens (32 percent) believe that their parents use an electronic device for music while driving, while only one in 10 parents report that they do so. Seventy-one percent of teens believe that their parents read or write down directions while driving, while 55 percent of parents say they do so. Eighty-five percent of teens believe that their parents deal with passenger issues while 70 percent of parents say they do so.

Edmunds says: Parenting doesn't stop behind the wheel. Bad habits can be modeled right from the driver's seat.

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