Parents Are Most Distracting to Teen Drivers

A whopping 86% of high school juniors and seniors admit to using their cell phones while driving, according to a statistic presented by American Psychological Association.

That is dangerous data when paired with another statistic. Twenty-six percent of the nation’s car accidents were caused by the use of cell phones, per the National Safety Council’s annual injury and fatality report.

With so many teens using their phones while driving, and a high correlation between accidents and distracted driving, instilling safe driving habits in teens is becoming increasingly important. That starts with parents — because they could be the root of the problem.

In a recent presentation “Is That Mom on the Phone? — Teen Drivers and Distraction,” the American Psychological Association explains that parents may contribute to the amount of distracted driving their kids do.

APA reviewed current data on the topic and conducted research of their own by surveying 395 teens, and found that teens often use their phone while driving because of influence by their parents.

Parents Often Set Poor Examples by Driving, Talking, and Texting

Teens aren’t the only drivers using phones while driving. Adults, including parents, frequently engage in distracted driving.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released data that 69% of US drivers reported they had talked on their phone while driving within 30 days of being surveyed.

With examples of distracted driving all around them, teens tend to increasingly replicate the habit the longer they drive. Thirty-four percent of drivers ages 15-17 said they didn’t use a cell phone while driving. While only 10% of 18-year-olds said they didn’t use their phone while driving.

When teens see so many examples of distracted driving, they begin to believe it is common. Parents need to reinforce that distracted driving is dangerous by setting an example and never driving while texting or talking.

Parents Pressure Their Teens to Answer Their Calls

Parents often expect their teens to answer their calls or respond to their texts right away. This pressures teens into thinking that they always need to answer, even if they are driving.

All but one teenage driving demographic surveyed by APA said that parents were the number one contact they talked to while driving.

Teens talk to their parents more often than they talk to their friends while driving. Fifty percent of 18-year-olds said their phone time was spent talking primarily to parents.

Related: Monitor Teen Driving with the MamaBear Driving Monitor App

Parents Can Help Decrease Distractive Driving Time

Successfully teaching teens how to incorporate safe driving practices starts with the parents. A few ways parents can help instill safe driving habits in their teen include the following.

  • Be a good role model. Don’t talk or text while you are driving.

  • Ask your kids if they are driving. Within the first 30 seconds of a phone call with your teen, ask them if they are driving. If they are, tell them to pull over and call you back.

  • Put the phone in the back seat. Teach your kids to put the phone in the back seat while driving. (Even better, parents can practice this themselves.)

  • Use a monitoring application. Programs and apps can help prevent distracted driving. MamaBear Family Safety App uses GPS so parents can connect with their kids without making phone calls (and also monitor car speeds). Other apps that disable phones while vehicles are in motion are also available.

  • Understand that kids might miss your call when they are driving. Don’t repeatedly call if your teen doesn’t answer right away. Give them time to pull over and make a call.

Make it easier to connect with your teen and encourage them to be a safe driver with the MamaBear Family Safety App (available for iPhone and Andriod).


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