BOSTON As young drivers head back to school, countless efforts and campaigns each year attempt to deter them from reckless behaviors behind the wheel. However, the latest data released today from Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) finds that teens are not the only culprits when it comes to making risky driving decisions. The new survey shows that parents engage in the same dangerous driving behaviors – including driving without a seat belt, texting, and driving after consuming alcohol – that they warn their children against. Equally concerning, nearly half (41 percent) of teens say their parents continue these unsafe habits behind the wheel even after their teens ask them to stop.
“While parents may think they’re setting a good example for their teens, these findings suggest that some parents engage in unsafe driving habits more often than they might admit,” said Dave Melton, driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance and managing director of global safety. “Research shows that teens often replicate their parents’ poor driving behaviors, so it’s critical for the safety of everyone on the road that parents be a model for responsible driving whenever they are behind the wheel.”
Parents’ Risky Driving Behaviors
According to the survey, parents actually admit to engaging in many of the same dangerous – and in some cases, illegal – driving behaviors that they warn their own children against, often at alarmingly high rates:
- Talking on cell phone while driving: 86 percent
- Speeding: 80 percent
- Texting and driving: 40 percent
- Driving after consuming alcohol: 34 percent
- Driving without a seat belt: 21 percent
The data also reveals that the majority (83 percent) of teens say their parents engage in unsafe driving behaviors with them in the car, sometimes at higher rates than their parents like to admit. For example, 58 percent of teens say they have witnessed their parents texting and driving, and 41 percent have observed their parents driving without a seat belt.
Teens Speak Up, But Parents Don’t Listen
Teens are not only taking note of their parents’ risky driving behaviors, they are making concerted efforts to change them. Of the teens surveyed, 60 percent report they have asked their parents to put an end to dangerous driving habits, with texting and driving being the most common concern among teens (42 percent). Similarly, the majority of parents admit that their teens are speaking up:
- 40 percent say their teen has asked them to stop driving without a seat belt
- 33 percent say their teen has asked them to stop texting and driving
- 26 percent say their teen has asked them to stop speeding
- 23 percent say their teen has asked them to stop posting social media updates while driving.
According to the survey data, parents may not be taking these requests to heart. While the majority (84 percent) of parents say they change their driving behaviors when asked, nearly half (41 percent) of teens report that parents do not change their driving habits when requested to do so by their teens. Even more alarming is that more than a quarter (28 percent) of teens report that their parents even justify why they should continue to engage in unsafe behaviors behind the wheel, while 12 percent report that their parents ignore them completely.
“The majority of teens learn to drive from their parents, and an open dialogue about safe behaviors on both sides is critical,” said Stephen Gray Wallace, senior advisor for policy, research and education at SADD. “If parents aren’t setting the right example for safe driving every time they’re behind the wheel, it’s probable that teens will learn and mimic those risky behaviors.”
Parent and Teen Safe Driving Resources
Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD encourage parents and teens alike to have frequent and open conversations about responsible driving, and to consider signing the Parent/Teen Driving Contract. Created by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD, the Contract offers a guide to safe driving conversations and a customized agreement for parents and teens to create and uphold family driving rules.
About the Study
Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD commissioned ORC International to conduct a qualitative and quantitative methodology to measure teen driving attitudes and behaviors. The study was initiated with a series of focus groups held in Philadelphia, Pa., and Dallas, Texas from May 29 – May 30, 2013, followed by a survey of 2,537 eleventh and twelfth graders from across the country. Overall the findings from the study can be interpreted at a 95 percent confidence interval with an error margin of +/- 1.68 percent. Error margins for subsets such as licensed drivers will be wider. Additionally, the study surveyed 1,000 parents of high school aged teenage drivers, providing an overall error margin of +/- 2.94 percent.
SADD, the nation’s leading peer-to-peer youth education, prevention, and activism organization, is committed to empowering young people to lead initiatives in their schools and communities. Founded in 1981, today SADD has thousands of chapters in middle schools, high schools and colleges. SADD highlights prevention of many destructive behaviors and attitudes that are harmful to young people, including underage drinking, other drug use, risky and impaired driving, and teen violence and suicide.
About Liberty Mutual Insurance
Liberty Mutual Insurance helps preserve and protect the things people earn and own and build and cherish. Keeping this promise means we are there when our policyholders throughout the world need us most.
In business since 1912, and headquartered in Boston, Mass., today Liberty Mutual is a diversified insurer with operations in 30 countries around the world. The company is the third largest property and casualty insurer in the U.S. based on 2013 direct premium written as reported by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Liberty Mutual also is ranked 76th on the Fortune 100 list of largest corporations in the U.S. based on 2013 revenue. The company employs over 50,000 people in more than 900 offices throughout the world.
The sixth-largest auto and home insurer in the U.S., Liberty Mutual (libertymutual.com) sells full lines of coverage for automobile, homeowners, valuable possessions, personal liability, and individual life insurance. The company is an industry leader in affinity partnerships, offering car and home insurance to employees and members of more than 14,000 companies, credit unions, professional associations and alumni groups.