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Do as I say, not as I text: Parents, kids and distracted driving

The epidemic of distracted driving is not limited to any particular age group, but the results of two recent surveys show that teens tend to mimic what they see or think they see their parents do behind the wheel. It may come as a surprise to parents that their teenagers are paying attention at all, but it should also be a lesson in modeling the behavior they expect from their kids.

In Florida, it is perfectly legal (as the Department of Motor Vehicles says) to use a cell phone while driving. That means talking, texting and surfing the Internet. Just because you can do it, though, doesn't mean you should. State records indicate that electronic distractions were behind 2,218 accidents during the first 10 months of 2011; of those, 145 involved texting and driving specifically.

Until the Legislature acts, then, safety-minded Florida parents will have to institute -- and follow -- their own cellphone rules. And, if the study sponsored in part by Toyota is accurate, those parents have no margin for error in showing their teens how not to use cellphones in the car.

The study found a disconnect between teens' and their parents' perceptions. Teens (age 16 to 18) believe their parents engage in distracted driving behaviors more often than their parents say they do. Not all of these distractions were electronic, either. The results included the following:

  • 85 percent of teens said their parents deal with passenger issues, but only 70 percent of parents admitted to this.
  • 71 percent of teens said their parents read or write down directions while driving, versus 55 percent of parents who said they do so.
  • 32 percent of teens said their parents use iPods, MP3 players or other music devices, while only 10 percent of parents said they listen to music devices while driving.

Are parents any better judges of their teens' driving habits? We'll discuss that and the results of the second survey in our next post.

Source: Online Auto Insurance News, "Study: Teens Using Parents' Habits to Justify Distracted Driving," John Pirro, Nov. 29, 2012

We work with clients who have been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver. Please visit our website for more information about our Manatee, Florida, firm.

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