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How Parents Cause Distracted Teen Driving

A recent study found that more than half of teen drivers often take phone calls from their parents while they are behind the wheel. This can result in distracted driving, putting these young drivers at risk.

The findings presented at the American Psychological Association’s 122nd Annual Convention show that out of the 408 teen drivers ages 15 to 18 that participated in the study, more than half reported being on the phone with their parents while driving. Despite the bans, warnings, and the well-known dangers associated with distracted driving, many teen drivers feel that they still need to answer the phone behind the wheel, because parents expect to be able to reach their teens at all times and even get angry when they don’t answer their calls.

Distracted Teen Driving Statistics

A National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) report in 2013 showed that 11 percent of distracted teen driving accidents were fatal, with 21 percent of those car accidents involving cellphones. The NHTSA also reported that 78 percent of teen drivers say they’ve read a text message while driving and 71 percent say they have typed and sent a text message while behind the wheel.

What Can Parents Do About Distracted Teen Driving?

The study presented at the APA showed just how surprising it was to see that parents are often directly involved in distracted teen driving. Making parents more aware about this problem is the first step in reducing distracted teen driving.

The teen drivers surveyed in the study also said that their parents often used their cell phones while behind the wheel, so they felt that it was okay because “everyone is doing it”. Parents need to set an example and not use their cellphones while driving to emphasize that distracted driving is not safe or acceptable behavior for anyone.

When parents call their teens, they should first ask if they are driving. If they are behind the wheel, tell them to call them back when they are not driving or find a spot to pull over so that they can talk safely. There are also several smartphone driving and GPS apps available that can alert a parent if their teen is currently driving and can communicate the location of their teen if they need to know where they are.


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