Study: Parents are a common cause of teen driver distraction

Research suggests parents may contribute to teen driver distraction by insisting teens respond quickly to calls or texts, raising the risk of accidents.

Distracted driving is a widespread problem among Augusta teenagers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that one-fifth of teens have extended text conversations every time they drive, and one-quarter of teens admit to texting while driving at least once during each drive. Distracted driving is the leading cause of death for teens, according to the same source.

Sadly, when teenagers give in to distractions, other drivers can also get hurt. Research indicates that many teenagers recognize distracted driving as dangerous, but they still persist in the behavior. A new study sheds light on one factor that may make teens drive distracted despite knowing better.

Parents drive dangerous choices

Researchers surveyed more than 400 teenagers from 31 states about distracted driving behaviors, according to USA Today. The participants were all between ages 15 and 18, and they all had learner's permits or driver's licenses. Surprisingly, researchers found that parents often contributed significantly to cellphone use. Researchers reported the following observations:

  • When teenagers talked on cellphones while driving, more than half of the time, they were talking to their parents.
  • Parents exacerbated the issue by setting the expectation that the teen remain constantly in touch and answer the phone anytime the parent called. Some parents even called repeatedly if a teen failed to answer.
  • Teenagers were more likely to text friends than parents while driving, but some texts still went to parents.

Researchers also noted that many teenagers see their parents use their own cellphones while driving. This may desensitize teens to the behavior or reinforce the belief that responding to texts or calls while driving is necessary.

Of course, electronic devices are not the only source of distraction teenagers may encounter. The Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety reports that simply reaching for an object can make a car accident 9 times more likely. Looking at distractions outside of the vehicle boosts crash risk 3.7 times. Using other electronic devices, such as GPS devices, triples the likelihood of an accident.

Still, research indicates that texting and talking are some of the most dangerous types of distraction. Parents should recognize the way they contribute to these distractions and encourage their teenagers to focus on driving or pull over to handle other tasks.

Distracted driving accidents

Unfortunately, distracted driving is a widely ingrained behavior. During any daylight moment, an estimated 660,000 drivers are using electronic devices across the country, according to the NHTSA. Drivers of any age can make unsafe decisions, but another new study suggests that young drivers are especially likely to overestimate ability to multitask while driving, according to USA Today. These misperceptions can have serious consequences.

When injuries or wrongful deaths result from a needless accident, victims or surviving family members may pursue justice through a personal injury lawsuit. Anyone who has been hurt or lost a loved one in an Augusta distracted driving accident should consider meeting with an attorney to discuss the available legal options.