Parent Set Poor Driving Example for Teens

While government, law enforcement, industry and consumer groups have joined forces to spread the word about the dangers of distracted driving, apparently this call isn’t getting through to some parents as they teach their teens to drive.

In a survey released this week by State Farm, 61 percent of teens say that their parents have been distracted by their cell phone or other electronic device at least once while they are in the car teaching them to drive. For some, the practice happens more frequently. 29 percent of teens say their parents have been distracted while teaching them to drive either “sometimes, often or all the time.”

53 percent of parents likewise admit they’ve been distracted while their teen is driving at least once. Some parents also admit to being distracted more frequently. 17 percent of parents say they have been distracted while teaching their teen to drive either “sometimes, often or all the time.”

Teens say parents using a phone behind the wheel is nothing new – that it’s been happening for years. In the survey, 54 percent of teens say they’ve seen parents using a phone while driving either “sometimes, often or all the time.” 43 percent of parents admit they’ve modeled cell phone use while driving in front of their teens either “sometimes, often or all the time.”

In July, State Farm and the research company Synovate surveyed 517 pairs of new teen drivers and their parents to gather their perspectives on the learning to drive experience in their own families.

“These results are troublesome on multiple levels,” said Laurette Stiles, Vice President – Strategic Resources at State Farm. “Parents should know that how they handle themselves behind the wheel creates a powerful example for their teens – for better or worse. During practice drives, parents should be alert at all times to coach teens and serve as a second set of eyes. Being distracted even once while teaching not only sends the wrong message, it creates real dangers for those inside and outside the vehicle.”

In the survey, 24 percent of parents felt they weren’t spending enough time behind the wheel with their teen learning to drive. 30 percent of teens surveyed felt they weren’t spending enough time learning to drive.

To help teen drivers and their parents, State Farm this week is making available the first-of-its-kind, academically-based interactive teen driver training tool equipping parents to be more engaged in teaching their teens to drive. The new tool is called Road Trips™ and is free to the public. Road Trips is the most recent result of the State Farm $20 million investment in teen driver safety.

Road Trips is available along with other safe driving resources at