Parents set poor driving example for teens, with sometimes-dire results

Young drivers see adults texting, speeding, talking on the phone and often follow suit

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 19 2012 11:00 p.m. MDT

"You can exhibit risky behavior and nothing happens and you seem invincible and then tragedy does occur," said Melton. "We know this do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do approach does not work. Children need consistent role models in not only driving but pretty much everything else, and I hope parents will begin to understand the impact they have on their kids, especially with driving where the stakes are so high.

What kids need are good role models, said Stephen Wallace, senior adviser for policy, research and education for SADD National in Marlborough, Mass. "We hope this is a wake-up call for parents that your kids are watching what you do," he said.

Keeping mum

The survey also found that few teens will speak up and ask a parent to stop engaging in distracted behavior while driving. But when they do, nearly three-fourths said their parents pay attention and change their poor driving behavior.

To promote that and provide a conversation starter between parents and teens, Liberty Mutual and SADD have a driving contract, available at libertymutual.com/teendriving, that they encourage parents and teens to download, discuss and sign. It's free and has a place to create customized rules and consequences, in addition to a pledge to learn and obey all driving rules, never drive under the influence and not talk or text on the cellphone while driving.

The vast majority of kids — more than 90 percent — said having their parents trust them is important, and 71 percent said having a written agreement outlining rules and consequences would bolster trust.

The parent's pledge concludes with "I agree to obey all the rules and laws that I expect you to obey; to provide safe and sober transportation if you are in a situation that threatens your safety; and to defer discussion about potentially destructive decisions you may make until we can both conduct a calm and caring conversation."

The teen pledge says, "I also agree to avoid potentially destructive decisions that can jeopardize my health and safety and those of my passengers; and that I will do my best to earn and keep your trust while I'm on the road."

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com Twitter: Loisco

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