Blog

Study reveals surprising source of distraction among AL teen drivers

Distracted driving is a widespread problem among teenagers, including those who live in Huntsville. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website Distraction.gov reports that one-quarter of teens answer at least one text every time they drive, while one-fifth of teens have extended text conversations while behind the wheel. A new study has revealed an unlikely factor that may cause teens to keep talking and texting while driving: their own parents.

Harmful parental influence

Past surveys have shown that teenagers often recognize the dangers of distracted driving. One 2014 survey found that 80 percent of teens thought texting while driving was more dangerous than skydiving, and 70 percent had asked their own parents or friends to stop texting while driving, according to Bloomberg. Still, many teenagers persist in the behavior.

A recent study from the American Psychological Association surveyed over 400 teenagers from 31 different states in an effort to determine why teenagers text and talk while driving despite knowing it is dangerous. According to Science Daily, researchers found that maintaining mandatory contact with parents was a common reason for the risky behavior:

  • Virtually every teenager who talked on the phone while driving talked to his or her parents. Just 20 percent of teenagers who talked while driving called their friends.
  • Half of the surveyed 18-year olds talked to parents while driving, as did 37 percent of 15- to 17-year olds.
  • Teens were more likely to text their friends than parents. Still, 8 percent of 15- to 17-year olds texted their parents, and 16 percent of 18-year olds did the same.

Researchers noted that many teens cited parental rules when explaining why they chose to text or talk. Parents often require their teens to be readily reachable by phone to provide information about where they are or what they are doing. Some teenagers also mentioned that they frequently see other people, including their own parents, texting or talking while driving.

Together, these findings suggest that parents play a role in both normalizing and directly promoting distracted driving among teenagers.

High-risk drivers

Arguably, teens can afford distractions even less than other drivers. The Alabama Department of Public Health reports that teen drivers are twice as likely to crash their cars as drivers between ages 20 and 24. Teenagers are four times more likely to experience car accidents than drivers between ages 30 and 69. In Alabama, roughly half of fatalities among people under 18 occur in car accidents. Parents with young drivers should recognize these risks and encourage safer behaviors.

Sadly, besides resulting in personal harm, the unsafe choices teenage drivers make can have serious consequences for others, including their passengers and innocent motorists. If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident involving a young driver, please think about meeting with an attorney to discuss seeking compensation.