Study: Teens texting a lot on the road, parents have big influence on behaviors

Published On: Nov 28 2012 09:24:44 AM EST   Updated On: Nov 28 2012 09:32:26 AM EST

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. has announced preliminary findings from a major, national study of teen drivers (ages 16 to 18) and parents of teen drivers conducted jointly with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI).

The Study shows a significant correlation between parent and teen behaviors behind the wheel, suggesting parents can play an influential role in modeling risky behavior on the road. The UMTRI/Toyota Teen Driver Distraction Study, the largest scientific survey of its kind, also found that texting while driving remains commonplace among teens, despite ongoing, nationwide efforts to educate drivers on the significant risks associated with these behaviors. 

The UMTRI/Toyota Study is based on national telephone surveys of more than 5,500 young drivers and parents. The survey includes interviews with 400 pairs of teens and parents from the same household (dyads). This is a unique factor that allows researchers to analyze closely how driving behaviors among parents and teens within the same family unit relate to each other. In addition to a national sample, the study includes local surveys in Chicago; Philadelphia, Pa.; Houston, Texas; Long Island, N.Y.; Los Angeles and Washington, DC. 

Commenting on the connection noted in the study between parent and teen driving behavior, Dr. Tina Sayer, CSRC Principal Engineer and teen safe driving expert, said: "Driver education begins the day a child's car seat is turned around to face front. As the Study shows, the actions parents take and, by extension, the expectations they set for young drivers each day are powerful factors in encouraging safe behavior behind the wheel. Seat belts and good defensive driving skills are critical. However, the one piece of advice I would give to parents to help them keep newly licensed drivers safe on the road it is to always be the driver you want your teen to be." 

Nationally, motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for U.S. teens and, in 2010, seven teens between the ages 16 and 19 died every day on average from motor vehicle injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The Study, sponsored by Toyota's Collaborative Safety Research Center, was designed to shed new light on frequently discussed driving risks and to identify effective recommendations to help keep teens safe and help parents serve as more effective driving role models. The Study also looked at a range of risk factors that receive less public attention but pose great risks on the road as well as the role parents and peers play in encouraging distracted driving behaviors. 

Key Findings from the UMTRI/Toyota Teen Driver Distraction Study

The sample of teens and parents from the same households (the dyad sample) showed a strong correlation between driving behaviors and attitudes within families. In general, parents who engage in distracting behaviors more frequently have teens who engage in distracting behaviors more frequently. Other findings from the dyad sample include:

Key findings from the larger, national sample of more than 5,500 respondents include: