A new survey of more than 1,700 teens nationwide, conducted by Liberty Mutual and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), compares the destructive driving habits of parents, as observed by the teens, to those of the teens themselves—and the results are unsettling. 

According to the teens surveyed, parents more frequently talk on cell phones while driving (91 percent of parents compared to 90 percent of teens), drive without a seatbelt (47 percent of parents compared to 33 percent of teens) and drive under the influence of alcohol (20 percent of parents compared to 15 percent of teens). Teens more frequently displayed the other three vices listed on the survey: speeding (94 percent of teens compared to 88 percent of parents), text messaging (78 percent of teens compared to 59 percent of parents) and driving under the influence of marijuana (16 percent of teens compared to 7 percent of parents).

Most startling are the relatively insignificant differences between the parents’ and teens’ poor driving habits. Indeed, in past Liberty Mutual/SADD surveys, teens have indicated that parents are their primary driving influence. It follows that two-thirds (66 percent) of teen drivers report their parents live by different rules than the ones they expect of their teens. 

The survey also found that few teens speak up and ask a parent to stop engaging in distracting behaviors while driving. One example provided by the study: Only 21 percent of teens say they would ask their parents to stop driving while under the influence of alcohol. However, when teens do speak up, nearly three-quarters (70 percent) report their parents listen and change their poor driving behavior.

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