National Teen Driver Safety Week: Parents Don’t Always Set The Best Example

Chuck Bednar for – Your Universe Online
Adult drivers can help their less experienced, less mature teenage counterparts practice safer behavior when behind the wheel, but recent studies have indicated that they are often a part of the problem rather than a part of the solution, according to various media reports published on Monday.
Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among US teenagers, explained Forbes contributor Tanya Mohn, and as part of its ‘5 to Drive’ campaign, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) is looking to raise awareness of the crucial role that adult drivers can play in teaching teens the right way to safely pilot a motor vehicle.
October 19 through October 25 has been designated as National Teen Driver Safety Week, and while the NHTSA initially launched ‘5 to Drive’ during last year’s National Teen Driver Safety Week, it was once again highlighting the importance of mentoring younger drivers for the 2014 edition of the event. The campaign, the agency said in a statement Monday, is designed to reduce motor vehicle crashes among young drivers.
“Despite a declining trend, young drivers remain the largest percentage of crashes and deaths on our roads and we must all do more to change that,” US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Monday at the annual conference of the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS). “It’s vitally important that anyone responsible for a teenager, including teens themselves, join our ‘5 to Drive’ campaign.”
The ‘5 to Drive’ campaign includes five rules designed to help keep teenage drivers safe, including: no cellphone use or texting while driving, no extra passengers, no speeding, no alcohol and no driving or riding without a seat belt. The NHTSA said that one-tenth of all people killed in teen driving crashes in 2012 died in accidents where the driver was distracted, and that speeding was a factor in 48 percent of wrecks that killed 15- to 20-year-old drivers.
In addition, the agency’s statistics revealed that a teenage driver is 2.5 times more likely to engage in risky behaviors when driving with one teenage passenger, but three times more likely with multiple teenager passengers. Finally, the NHTSA reported that 28 percent of the 15- to 20-year-old drivers killed in crashes in 2012 had been drinking, and that 60 percent of those teenage occupants of vehicles killed in accidents were not wearing seat belts at the time.
“All too often, teens drivers make choices behind the wheel that can result in devastating and lifelong consequences,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman. “However, these risky driving behaviors – and the devastation they cause – are entirely preventable. The ‘5 To Drive’ program offers parents and young drivers simple steps they can take to establish the rules of the road and prevent heartbreaking tragedies from occurring.”
“NHTSA also reminds parents and guardians to serve as good role models by practicing safe driving behaviors during every trip. Young drivers often pattern the behavior of their parents,” the organization added. Unfortunately, as Kristin Varela of pointed out in an article recently published by USA Today, quite often those parents are actually setting bad examples.
For instance, she said that a 2012 study by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions found that 91 percent of all teens had seen their parents talk on cellphones while driving, and 59 percent had watched mom or dad send a text while operating an automobile.
Likewise, 20 percent of teens said they had seen their parents drive after drinking, and 47 percent said that they had witnessed their parents driving without seat belts. Perhaps due in part because they see their parents behave in this manner, 15 percent of teens admit to having driven while drunk, and 33 percent have driven without wearing their seat belts, Varela said.
In August, California-based cognitive psychologist Dr. Noelle LaVoie and a team of researchers asked 400 drivers between the ages of 15 and 18 about why they continued using cellphones while behind the wheel, despite warnings about the hazards such activity presents. They found that more than half of those teens said their conversations were with the very same parents who preach about the dangers of distracted driving.
“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.”
Similarly, a May study from Dr. Michelle L. Macy of the University of Michigan Health System found that 75 percent of parents admitted to engaging in distractions like phone use, feeding a child or eating while driving, and that 90 percent said they had engaged in at least one of 10 distractions examined in the investigation while their son or daughter was a passenger in the vehicle they were driving.
“If we really want to teach our children to be responsible, we need to look at how we may be sabotaging our teen drivers and make the necessary sacrifices and lifestyle changes to lead by example,” Varela said. “The safety of our teen drivers (and everyone else on the road) depends upon it.”
May we suggest – Crash-Proof Your Kids: Make Your Teen a Safer, Smarter Driver by Timothy C. Smith. In Crashproof Your Kids, certified driving instructor and dad Timothy Smith has combined the collective wisdom of numerous experts to develop the Crashproof Plan: a series of behind-the-wheel exercises designed to improve your teen’s driving awareness, behavior, and skill in a way that fits your schedule.