The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Parents Often Pass Bad Driving Habits to Their Children

August 22, 2007

COLUMBUS, Ohio --- If you're managing a fleet with some less than stellar drivers behind the wheel, take note: Maybe those employees picked up those lousy habits from their moms and dads. What's more, a new survey suggests that this risk is prevalent today. A new study of more than 2,200 parents and children by Nationwide Mutual Insurance found that 82 percent of 10- to 18-year-olds pay attention to their parents' driving at least half of the time they spend in the car. "Teens are learning the rules of the roads by watching their parents," said Bill Windsor, Nationwide associate vice president of safety. "Parents play a significant role in shaping the type of driver their child will become and they recognize this duty. According to the survey, 85 percent of parents say they try to promote roadway safety by driving safely themselves." While parents recognize they are being observed and need to lead by example, this often gets lost in practice. Two out of five parents surveyed said they curb their bad driving habits in front of their children, but many children reported seeing their parents drive aggressively, feel around for items in the car, talk on cell phones and refrain from wearing seatbelts. Key findings from the study include: While nearly half of parents reported that they typically drive at or below the speed limit, 80 percent of children observed that their parents drive over the speed limit. More than half of children have observed their parent multi-tasking behind the wheel (talking on cell phones, adjusting the radio and/or correcting a misbehaving child), arguing with a passenger, and/or arguing and yelling at other drivers. Nearly three in 10 children surveyed have been scared by a parent's driving and 53 percent of parents have been scared when riding with their teen driving. More than half of children have not told their parents how they feel about their driving, including 20 percent who never found the right time or way to bring it up. 27 percent of teens with their driver's license have never had formal instruction and have learned from watching their parents and other people drive. Teen drivers are 66 percent more likely to obey speed limits and 51 percent more likely to keep both hands on the steering wheel than their parents. Parental influence on the driving habits of their children is confirmed by research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "IIHS has found that parents with traffic violations or who've been in crashes are more likely to have teen drivers with violations or crashes," said Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at IIHS. "Our research and Nationwide's survey should send a clear message that when it comes to learning good driving habits, parents matter." Between July 2 and July 12, 2007, Marketing Services Research Inc (MRSI) conducted 2,253 interviews using a nationally representative online panel. All respondents were required to be a parent of a child between the ages of 10 and 18 and a licensed driver, or a child between the ages of 10 and 18. In total, 735 parents and 1,518 children were surveyed. Three types of interviews were conducted to ensure accuracy: parent-only interviews, child-only interviews and parent/child interviews. Results were then examined to determine whether differences existed between the attitudes of respondents in paired interviews and those who were surveyed alone. No significant differences of note emerged. The survey has +/- 4.8 percent margin of error.
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