New Study Probes The Surprising Role Of Parents In Distracted Driving Among Teens

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

Parents who preach about the dangers of distracted driving are often on the other end of the phone when teenagers talk while behind the wheel, according to research presented Friday at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association (APA).

As part of the study, Petaluma, California-based cognitive psychologist Dr. Noelle LaVoie and her colleagues surveyed and interviewed over 400 drivers between the ages of 15 and 18 from 31 states and asked why they continued to use cellphones while driving despite warnings about the hazards such activity presents.

According to Sharon Jayson of USA Today, the study authors found that more than half of teenagers who said they had conducted a cellphone conversation while driving (53 percent) were talking with either their mom or dad at the time. In contrast, only 46 percent were chatting with a friend, though the opposite was true with texting.

“Teens said parents expect to be able to reach them, that parents get mad if they don’t answer their phone and they have to tell parents where they are,” Dr. LaVoie said in a statement. “Parents need to understand that this is not safe and emphasize to their children that it’s not normal or acceptable behavior. Ask the question, ‘Are you driving?’ If they are, tell them to call you back or to find a spot to pull over so they can talk.”

The researchers conducted in-person interviews with 13 teens who were between the ages of 15 and 17 and has either a learner’s permit or driver’s license, and asked them about various driving hazards, including texting or talking on the phone while driving. Every teen that said that he or she had talked on the phone while operating a motor vehicle said they had been talking to parents, while just 20 percent said that they had talked to friends.

They also had 395 people complete surveys, with 37 percent of those with permits and 50 percent of 18-year-olds with unrestricted driver’s licenses admitted that they had taken a phone call from mom or dad while driving. Sixteen percent of 18-year-olds and eight percent of the 15- or 17-year-olds said that they had texted a parent while driving, though the researchers said that teens were more likely to send messages to their friends than their folks.

“It was just very surprising to see how directly parents are involved. What we do know for sure is if parents would not call their teens while they’re (kids) driving, it would reduce teen distracted driving,” LaVoie told Jayson, noting that one of the things the teens interviewed discussed was that their parents “used their cell phone while driving.”

“A lot of parents aren’t really aware of how important it is to be a good role model and how dangerous it is for their teen to answer a cellphone while driving,” the study author added in an interview with Maureen Salamon of HealthDay. “There is certainly [prior research] showing that parents might not be modeling the best behavior for teens, and we know a lot of parents talk on the phone while driving. But this was a real shock.”

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics report that approximately 2,700 teens aged 16 to 19 are killed each year, and another 280,000 are treated and released from emergency departments following automobile crashes, Salamon said. Furthermore, distracted driving is responsible for 11 percent of all vehicular fatalities among teens, and 21 percent of those crashes involved cellphones, a 2013 US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report said.

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