behaviors

Busted by our teenagers: Parents' bad driving behavior

Sep. 18, 2012 at 6:55 AM ET

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Are you talking on your phone while driving? Your kids are watching you!

Oh, no. There’s another alarming survey about teens and driving habits. The texting, the cell phones, the speeding and the drinking... Except this time, it’s not just the teens behaving badly – it’s their parents. 

Turns out, the vast majority of parents need to hang up and drive. In a nationwide survey conducted by an insurance company of 1,700 teens, 91 percent report that their parents talk on cell phones while driving, 88 percent say mom and dad speed and 59 percent of teens have seen their parents text while driving.

And teens are paying attention to their role models: 90 percent of teens surveyed admit to talking on cell phones while driving, 94 percent say they speed, and 78 percent say they text behind the wheel. 

The bad vehicular behavior doesn’t end there: 47 percent of parents are said to drive without seatbelts, while 20 percent of teens say they’ve seen their parents get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol and seven percent of parents have been spotted driving after smoking pot. 

And, once again, teens mirror their parents’ behavior. A third of teens admit to driving without wearing a seatbelt, 15 percent have driven while under the influence of alcohol and 16 percent say they’ve driven after smoking pot. 

As parents, are we a bunch of hypocrites? Our kids certainly seem to think so. The survey, which was conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), also shows that two-thirds of teenage drivers believe their parents live by different rules than the ones they set for their kids. 

The takeaway: Your teens actually ARE paying attention to you, so act accordingly.

“Your kids are always observing the decisions you make behind the wheel, and in fact have likely been doing so since they were big enough to see over the dashboard," said Dave Melton, a driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance and managing director of global safety. "You may think you only occasionally read a text at a stop light or take the odd 30-second phone call, but kids are seeing that in a different way. Answering your phone once while driving, even if only for a few seconds, legitimizes the action for your children and they will, in turn, see that as acceptable behavior.” 

So parents, let this serve as a reminder that little (and not so little) eyes are watching your every move and getting ready to mimic you perfectly the second they get behind the wheel.

Dana Macario is a Seattle-area mom who’s resolving to be a better driver, after last week’s traffic ticket.

Check out these related links (but not while driving!):

 7 ways to stop teens from drinking and driving, for real

Biker mama: Mother of six ditches SUV for super-sized bike

Driving while breast-feeding? Say it isn't so 

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