Model Behavior: How Parents Influence Their Teens’ Driving Habits

Fresh information hit the news last month when Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) revealed the results of a survey regarding the amount of influence a parent’s driving habits has on the ones of their teenage drivers. According to the survey, which polled 1,700 teens from across the nation, adults are engaging in poor and risky driving habits while their teens are in the car and, in the process, doing more than just putting their families at risk. By engaging in behaviors such as texting, speeding and driving while intoxicated, parents are setting poor examples for their teenage drivers and causing them to follow suit by repeating the actions in nearly equal amounts.

How Parents Influence Their Teens’ Driving Habits

Not surprisingly, the most common destructive driving behavior modeled by parents was talking on a cell phone while driving. The second-most repeated offense was speeding, followed by texting, driving without a seatbelt, driving while intoxicated and, finally, driving under the influence of marijuana. According to the teens, 91 percent of parents talked on their phones while behind the wheel, 88 percent broke the speed limit and 59 percent texted while driving.

And because the teens reported that their parents were the primary influences on their own driving habits, these young drivers incorporated these patterns into their own driving styles as well—sometimes at even a greater rate. While 90 percent of teens reported talking on the phone while driving, 94 percent admitted to speeding and 78 percent to texting.

What may be even more discouraging, however, is that 66 percent of teens reported that their parents were choosing to live by different rules than the ones they expected of their kids. Thus, not only were teens learning and incorporating poor driving habits, they were also learning life lessons about integrity

At Meyer’s and Waterloo Automotive, we know that parents today face many distractions while behind the wheel. Talking on the phone, speeding, texting and other behaviors are all part of our culture, and it takes great discipline not to engage in habits that could prove harmful. However, we want to offer a word of caution to all of our customers who are being watched by young eyes: Be mindful of your example. Whether or not you tell your kids about safe driving, they are still more likely to model your behavior. And if an action is safe enough for you, they will believe that it’s safe enough for them regardless of what you say.

By all means talk to your young drivers about maintaining good driving habits. Encourage them to wear their seatbelts and obey the laws. But more than anything practice what you preach. With nearly all teens reportedly mirroring the habits of their parents behind the wheel, it’s imperative that you set a good example if you expect them to follow through.

This week, we challenge you as parents and role models to examine your personal driving habits and what message they are sending to your kids. Are you living how you expect them to live, or are you following the “do as I say, not as I do” rule? Because the truth is that only one of those methods will offer positive results, and only one will help ensure the life and safety of those who matter most to you.

At Meyer’s and Waterloo Automotive, we care about our customers and want them to stay safe behind the wheel. If that means laying off the gas pedal or turning off the cell phone in order to help a younger driver develop better skills, then so be it. We know you’ll do whatever it takes to protect your family and do right by them. And, in the meantime, if there’s any way we can help, we hope you’ll stop by either of our locations for fast, professional auto service knowing that we’ll always do whatever we can to help you get back on the road and back to life.

For your next auto maintenance appointment, call Meyer’s or Waterloo Automotive today!

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Driver's Safety
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