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by Sean Killcarr, in Trucks at Work

carThere’s a lot of effort spent on a yearly basis aimed at trying to curb risky driving behaviors among the young – don’t speed, don’t text while driving, etc.

One problem, though, is that such efforts are being compromised to a degree by the old philosophical dilemma known as “do as I say but don’t do as I do” – at least according to research compiled by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions).

The two entities conducted a joint survey of teenagers back in late May among 2,537 or so 11th and 12th grade students from across the country attending a series of focus groups in Philadelphia, PA, and Dallas, TX.

That joint poll found young drivers are not the only culprits when it comes to making risky driving decisions, as those polls found that their parents engage in the same dangerous driving behaviors – including driving without a seat belt, texting, and driving after consuming alcohol – that they warn their children against.

Equally concerning, nearly half (41%) of teens say their parents continue these unsafe habits behind the wheel even after their teens ask them to stop.

"While parents may think they're setting a good example for their teens, these findings suggest that some parents engage in unsafe driving habits more often than they might admit," noted Dave Melton, managing director of global safety for Liberty Mutual. "Research shows that teens often replicate their parents' poor driving behaviors, so it's critical for the safety of everyone on the road that parents be a model for responsible driving whenever they are behind the wheel."

According to the survey data, Melton said parents actually admit to engaging in many of the same dangerous - and in some cases, illegal - driving behaviors that they warn their own children against, often at alarmingly high rates:
  • Talking on cell phone while driving: 86%
  • Speeding: 80%
  • Texting and driving: 40%
  • Driving after consuming alcohol: 34%
  • Driving without a seat belt: 21%

The data also reveals that the majority (83%) of teens say their parents engage in unsafe driving behaviors with them in the car, sometimes at higher rates than their parents like to admit. For example, 58% of teens say they have witnessed their parents’ texting and driving, and 41% have observed their parents driving without a seat belt.

"The majority of teens learn to drive from their parents, and an open dialogue about safe behaviors on both sides is critical," noted Stephen Gray Wallace, senior advisor for policy, research and education at SADD. "If parents aren't setting the right example for safe driving every time they're behind the wheel, it's probable that teens will learn and mimic those risky behaviors."

Now a lot of truckers might rightly ask, “So what does this have to do with me? This is all focused on four wheelers.”

Yet as trucks share the road every day with the motoring public, the driving behaviors of those four wheelers – especially dangerous behaviors, such as texting while driving – significantly impact the safety of big rigs. Then, too, it’s from that pool of teen drivers that the next crop of truck drivers will come from and if they engage in risky driving habits while operating a car, they will in all likelihood continue doing it behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer.

Just something to think about as the next generation of generations slowly filters its way out onto our roadways.

To read more blog posts from Sean Kilcarr's award-winning blog, "Trucks at Work", click here.