As parents, you always want your children to be safe, especially when they come of age to get behind the wheel. But a new survey suggests that although more than half of US parents believe it’s unsafe to text while driving, most of them continue to do it anyway. Are you one of them?
The survey of 435 parents in 45 US states discovered that 52% of young, “millennial” parents (22-37 years old) and 58% of older parents said they thought it was “never” safe to text and drive. Despite this, almost two-thirds of parents have read texts while driving, and over half have also written texts while driving.
Dr. Regan Bergmark, one of the authors of the study, said that she thinks these results are due to a false sense of safety. “I think many people believe that texting and driving is unsafe, but have gotten away with reading and/or writing texts at some point,” she explained. “The problem with smart phones is that they have become an unavoidable part of daily life for most people.”
Though parents of all ages admitted to occasionally texting and driving, younger, millennial parents were more likely to have a variety of dangerous habits while driving. These include checking email and speeding. Dr. Bergmark said she believes that the pressure to “be reachable” for adults in today’s world is partly to blame for these bad habits.
Setting a Better Example for Teen Drivers
While parents seem to acknowledge that texting and driving is never safe, three in four said that they didn’t recall their child’s pediatrician speaking to them about the dangers of distracted driving as it related to their children. Aside from the heightened risk of accidents, texting while driving also sets a poor example that children will pick up on – particularly teens.
A Liberty Mutual Insurance survey found that 69% of parents with teen drivers practice at least two dangerous distracted behaviors while driving. At least half admitted to practicing three dangerous behaviors, including texting. “Young kids have seen us exhibit bad behaviors,” the director of the study said. “No matter what we tell them about safe driving, how can they believe we’re serious about it? Teens get safe driving examples from many sources, but no one more than mom and dad.”
The most important thing parents can do is practice what they preach about safe driving. Stop texting and driving, and pull over when you absolutely must respond to a text or take a call. Similarly, if you call your teen, ask if they are driving and tell them to pull over and call back if they are. If you need to talk, make it short, and do not have emotional conversations that could distract them. You can also install apps or use cell phone features which alert others that you are driving and will get back to them.
The key to ensuring that your teen is a safe driver is making safe driving a habit and an expectation. Practice safe driving habits with your teen, and reinforce them when you are behind the wheel. Your children will follow your lead!