From selfies to drunken driving, teens pick up bad driving habits from parents, auto insurer says

Key Points
  • The bad driving habits of parents are rubbing off on their kids, according to a new report from Liberty Mutual Insurance.
  • Teenagers admitted to driving under the influence of marijuana and alcohol at the same rates as their parents.
  • While 15 percent of the teens say they take selfies while driving, so do 14 percent of the parents. 
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Parents who speed, take selfies while behind the wheel and drive under the influence of alcohol produce teenage drivers who adopt the same bad habits, a new study by Liberty Mutual Insurance suggests.

Almost half of the parents surveyed, 49 percent, admitted to talking on the phone while driving, while 37 percent said they exceed the speed limit by at least 10 mph, the insurer found in a report released Wednesday.

"More surprisingly, parents exhibit dangerous driving habits and frequently do so as often as their teens. In fact, 37 percent of parents are using apps while driving compared to 38 percent of teens," Liberty Mutual said. "This behavior could be establishing and reinforcing bad behaviors behind the wheel for inexperienced teen drivers."

While 15 percent of the teens say they take selfies while driving, so do 14 percent of parents. The insurer surveyed 2,000 high school drivers and 1,000 parents in April and May.

More worrying, 9 percent of the parents surveyed admitted to driving under the influence of marijuana, and 8 percent said they have driven while intoxicated. Eleven percent said they vape and drive.

That behavior might be rubbing off on their kids. Teens admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, as well as while vaping, at the same rates as the parents, Liberty Mutual found.

Parents who ask their kids not to text and drive, often text their children while they are driving and expect a response, Liberty Mutual found.

"Parents are role models for their teen drivers and when the parent is the 'rule breaker' they are setting a bad example. I encourage parents and teens to set and agree upon boundaries together to help keep everyone safe on the road," said Dr. Gene Beresin, Liberty Mutual consultant and executive director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Unsafe behavior while driving can have fatal consequences, especially for new teen drivers: Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for American teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Liberty Mutual report suggests that teen drivers model the same unsafe driving habits as their parents.

Almost all of the parents surveyed agreed that their driving habits influenced their children's driving in some way.

Liberty Mutual also found that parents might be underplaying the extent of their rule breaking. While 20 percent of parents admitted to texting and driving, 30 percent of teens responded that their parents text and drive.

And parents don't appear to listen any better than their kids. When teenagers asked their parents to amend their lawless ways, only 56 percent listened. Someone, however, isn't telling the truth.

Most of the parents surveyed, 84 percent, said they did tighten up after being called out for bad behavior.

The study also found that more than a third, 37 percent, of parents don't punish their teens when they break a driving law, mainly because it's inconvenient, Liberty Mutual found. The most common consequence for teen drivers is losing driving privileges, leaving parents to pick up the slack, according to the report.

"Testing boundaries is normal teenage behavior but if a rule is broken, it's imperative for parents to follow through and enforce the consequences so the teen will change their behavior in the future and in turn help keep themselves and others safe on the road," Beresin said.