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Texting Parent Drivers Shun Warnings, Liberty Mutual Says

Texting While Driving
U.S. parents often ignore warnings from their teenage children by driving while texting or under the influence of marijuana, according to a survey released today by Liberty Mutual Holding Co. Source: iStock / 360

U.S. parents often ignore warnings from their teenage children by driving while texting or under the influence of marijuana, according to a survey released today by Liberty Mutual Holding Co.

Forty-two percent of teen passengers said they have asked parents to stop text-messaging while operating a vehicle and 18 percent have tried to get them to stop driving when high on weed, the survey by the Boston-based insurer found. Among teens who asked for a stop to risky behavior, 40 percent said their parents either ignore them or justify their actions.

“We’ve inundated teenagers with safe-driving messages,” Dave Melton, managing director of global safety at Liberty Mutual, said in a phone interview. “They’ve experienced the consequences, they’ve put the candles against the telephone poles to remember a friend, or something like that, and they wonder why their parents don’t do this.”

“Distraction-affected” crashes, including those in which the driver was texting, grooming or eating, killed 3,328 people in the U.S. in 2012, compared with 3,360 the year before, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. Organizations including Mothers Against Drunk Driving have helped reduce fatalities, the agency said in a June report.

Liberty Mutual, the second-largest U.S. seller of property-casualty coverage, joined with advocacy group Students Against Destructive Decisions to commission the survey of 2,537 U.S. 11th- and 12-graders and 1,000 parents of teen drivers.

Mobile Phones

Talking on a mobile phone while driving was the most common unsafe behavior reported by teens in the survey, with 88 percent saying their parents used a device while at the wheel. Fifty-eight percent of teens said their parents texted while driving, and 16 percent said the adults drove with kids in the car after having at least one alcoholic beverage.

Erica Resnikoff, a mother of two teenagers and one pre-teen in Westfield, New Jersey, said the number of bad drivers on the road is “scary.” She said she has tailored her behavior to ensure she’s a role model for her kids.

“I have had to make an effort if I’m expecting an important call to let it go, or pull into a parking lot, to stop the car and show them the right way to do it,” she said in a phone interview. “You just have to hope you’ve set the right example and talked about the right things.”

In the survey of parents, 84 percent said they stopped dangerous driving habits at their children’s request, more than double the rate given by responding teenagers. Just 2 percent of parents said they had ignored their teens.

“Teens are reporting an observation that they see,” said Melton. “Perhaps they’ve inflated the numbers a little bit just like their parents have. But I think parents are trying to justify their bad behaviors and suggest that yes, of course they’ll take action.”

Five percent of teenagers said they had been in a car driven by a parent who was under the influence of marijuana. That’s down from 7 percent in a Liberty Mutual survey released in 2012.

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