TODAY   |  October 12, 2010

Study: Parents passing bad driving habits to teens

Shocking dashboard camera video, part of a AAA study, captures distracted parents passing on poor driving habits and examples to their teens. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: If you're the parent of a teenager, you know they can't wait to get behind the wheel. And once they do, are you doing enough coaching and teaching? Well, probably not, according to a new study by the AAA Foundation . NBC 's Tom Costello is at a high school in Bethesda , Maryland , with details. Good morning to you, Tom .

TOM COSTELLO reporting: Hi, Meredith. Good morning to you. You know, car accidents remain the leading cause of death for teenagers between the age of 15 and 18, so the AAA Foundation wanted to see how well are parents actually teaching kids who are driving with their permits. To do that, they mounted cameras on the dashboard. It's a split-screen look at teenagers' first few months behind the wheel, from a missed driveway...

Unidentified Girl #1: Ah! Ah! I'm sorry.

COSTELLO: ...to a confusing intersection...

Unidentified Man #1: You got a red light , you got a red light !

COSTELLO: ...and the parents who are supposed to be involved.

Unidentified Man #2: There's a siren, there's a siren....

Unidentified Girl #2: What do I do?

Man #2: You just -- you need to pull over. You need to -- you need to pull over.

Girl #2: What -- which way?

Man #2: You need to pull over to the right, honey! Sorry.

COSTELLO: AAA followed 50 families, looking at how well parents teach teenage drivers.

Mr. CHUCK CATOTTI: And it's a little bit of a blind corner.

COSTELLO: Among them, Chuck Catotti and his daughter Leah , who he may have saved from a very serious accident.

Mr. CATOTTI: Whoa! Stop! Hit your brakes!

Ms. LEAH CATOTTI (Teen Driver): Daddy! What were they doing?

Mr. CATOTTI: They completely ran a red light .

Ms. CATOTTI: I didn't even see it coming. Like, it just was there all of a sudden and it just snuck up on me, I guess.

Mr. CATOTTI: Driving is a complex thing. It takes a lot of, you know, stimulus input and reacting quickly and thinking, and a lot of it is just plain practice.

COSTELLO: But AAA says the study's results were disappointing because while some parents offer lots of coaching...

Unidentified Man #3: Sometimes what you need to do when you're driving is, like, look two cars or three cars ahead of you...

Unidentified Girl #3: OK.

Man #3: ...to see what's going on.

COSTELLO: ...many others were themselves distracted.

Unidentified Woman: Bye-bye .

Unidentified Girl #4: Mommy, I don't like it when I don't know where I am and you're on the phone.

COSTELLO: And most teens had hardly enough time behind the wheel with mom or dad...

Mr. PETER KISSINGER (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety): On average, we saw that the supervised driving experience was actually less than two hours a week.

COSTELLO: ...with just 20 percent of the driving occurring at night or in bad weather. Hardly enough, says AAA . And as the Catottis discovered...

Mr. CATOTTI: Whoa! Stop! Hit your brakes!

Ms. CATOTTI: Daddy!

COSTELLO: ...there's no substitute for experience. Most states require 50 hours of time, supervised time, with a parent if you are learning to drive before you get a full driver's license. The AAA Foundation would like to see 100 hours . But, Meredith , they really want to see parents taking the time at night and in inclement weather learning -- or teaching kids how to drive. Back to you.