Many parents allow risky driving habits among local teen drivers, new poll shows. According to their parents, many local teen drivers are starting out with some bad – even deadly – habits, according to a scientific poll prepared for Drive Alive campaign by Highview Help Public Relations and Indiana Research Service.
Some good news: The majority of parents recognize their influence over their teens’ driving. Three-fourths of parents say that they have more influence over their teens’ driving than police, driver education programs, schools, etc.
The bad: Apparently many parents are not using their influence to give their teen drivers every safety advantage. For example, few teen drivers have been given any formal guidance on driving since getting their licenses. Half of the parents surveyed say their child drives at least once or twice a week while talking on a cell phone – a habit that can be as dangerous as driving drunk. And most parents are allowing their children to drive at night or with passengers right after getting their license – factors that greatly increase the risk for a deadly crash. Eight out of 10 households have no formal restrictions on their teens’ driving.
So while parents recognize that they can wield the most influence over their teens’ driving, many parents are not making full use of that influence to keep their children safer.
However, the survey shows this good news: 57 percent of parents surveyed say they had talked with their child about safe driving in the past week. This is crucial, because national data shows that teens who talk with their parents about safe driving are less likely to die in a crash.
The bad news: 43 percent of parents had not talked with their teen in the week prior to the survey. A primary goal of Drive Alive is to reduce this at-risk group by encouraging the “5-Alive” message: Talk with your teens for 5 minutes a week about specific safe driving topics like speeding, drunk driving, seatbelt use and avoidance of cell phones. “The goal is to encourage parents to adopt voluntary restrictions on the most predictably dangerous driving practices, like speeding, seatbelt use, nighttime driving, driving with teen passengers and driving while using a cell phone,” said Jon Brandenberger, MD, of Drive Alive's Board of Directors.
More highlights from the Drive Alive poll:
Methodology: A total of 466 interviews were completed, yielding a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4.5%.
County youth traffic deaths are at an alarming rate; many are avoidable. From 2000 to 2004, 43 youths died on local roads, according to the coroner's office.
Alcohol plays a role in an alarmingly number of these deaths locally - 75% in 2004. More than 1 in 4 Hoosier high school students rides in a car with a driver who's been drinking.
CDC data shows that 28 percent of Indiana high school students had ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol during the 30 days preceding the survey.
1 in 8 Hoosier high school students drinks and drives.
The same government study shows that, during the 30 days preceding the survey, 12.4 percent of Indiana high school students DROVE a car when they had been drinking alcohol.
Parents have the greatest influence over teen drivers.
Nearly 60 percent of high school students say their parents are the biggest influence on their driving. Young drivers whose parents talk with them about drunk driving, seatbelt use and speed control are less likely to be killed or hurt in a car crash.
The human toll of a teen traffic death is unthinkably tragic. The economic impact is easier to measure:
Based on calendar year 2000 data, the U.S. economic cost of an average roadway fatality is $977,000, and the economic costs associated with a critically injured crash survivor are $1.1 million.
Beginning drivers' crashes differ.
Teen drivers have the highest crash risk of any age group. Per mile traveled, new drivers have the highest involvement rates in all types of crashes, from those involving only property damage to those that are fatal. The problem is worst among 16-year-olds, who have the most limited driving experience.
On the basis of miles driven, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as are all drivers. Why do young drivers have such poor driving performance? Three factors work together to make the teen years so deadly for young drivers:
All young drivers start out with very little knowledge or understanding of the complexities of driving a motor vehicle. Like any other skill, learning to drive well takes a lot of time. Technical ability, good judgment and experience all are needed to properly make the many continuous decisions, small and large, that add up to safe driving. By making it so easy to get a driver's license by literally handing teenagers the car keys without requiring an extended period of supervised practice-driving time we are setting them up for the risk of making a fatal mistake.
Risk-taking behavior and immaturity
Adolescent impulsiveness is a natural behavior, but it results in poor driving judgment and participation in high-risk behaviors such as speeding, inattention, drinking and driving, and not using a seatbelt. Peer pressure also often encourages risk taking.
Greater risk exposure
Teens often drive at night with other teens in the vehicle, factors that increase crash risk.