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Poll: Many parents unwilling to accept their teens multitask while driving

Posted On Wed, October 23, 2013

As much as parents may want to believe that their teenagers keep their undivided attention on the road when they're behind the wheel, a recent poll suggests that their beliefs are often in contradistinction to what they have already admitted.

According to the survey, which was conducted by tire and rubber company Bridgestone Americas, of the 2,000 parents with teen drivers polled, approximately 39 percent said they suspected that their child talked on the phone while in the car driving. However, previous polling data has found that approximately half of all teenagers admit to this type of multitasking.

Additionally, the poll revealed that just one-quarter of all parents believe their teen used their handheld device to send text messages while operating a vehicle. But surveys have shown that approximately 50 percent of teens confess to having done this at least once.

Angela Patterson, manager of the teens drive smart program at Bridgestone, indicated that parents often don't want to believe that their child is putting themselves - and others - at risk for an accident.

"What we're seeing is that parents misjudge how prevalent many of these distracted driving behaviors are and how often their child participates in these activities," said Patterson. "Not only are teens engaging in these behaviors more than they know, teens are actually picking up these distracted driving behaviors from their parents."

When parents were questioned about whether they had ever texted and driven at the same time, nearly 95 percent said that they had, in fact, done this, even though just about every mom and dad questioned said they considered the activity to be "unacceptable."

NHTSA kicks off '5 to Drive' initiative
Perhaps with these parents in mind, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently launched its "5 to Drive" campaign. This initiative challenges parents to talk with their adolescents about the five things that are the most common causes of teen automotive crashes: Cellphone use, having too many passengers in the vehicle, speeding, alcohol consumption and driving without being buckled.

"Safety is our highest priority, especially when it comes to teens, who are often our least experienced drivers," said Anthony Foxx, secretary of the Department of Transportation. "The '5 to Drive' campaign gives parents and teens a simple, straightforward checklist that can help them talk about good driving skills and most importantly, prevent a tragedy before it happens."

Auto insurance rates tend to be higher for teens, mainly due to the fact that they're often involved in more accidents than other age groups. David Strickland, NHTSA administrator, indicated that this is due to a variety of factors, including limited experience, immaturity, peer pressure to speed or drink and drive and not appreciating the importance of wearing a seatbelt.

"I encourage all parents of teenagers to have an open discussion with their teen about the dangers common among young drivers and to make sure they use our '5 To Drive' program to develop the necessary skills to drive safely every trip, every time," said Strickland.

Based on traffic and crash data compiled by NHTSA, in 2011, in more than one-third of the crashes where a teenager was the motorist, speeding was the main reason for the accident. Additionally, even though every state has laws on the books that prevent teens from drinking before the age of 21, more than 500 people died in a crash where a 14-to-18-year-old had at least a moderate amount of alcohol in their system.

According to NHTSA data, most of the highway fatalities involving teen drivers occur between 3 and 8 p.m.

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