Distracted Driving: what we say and what we do

Whatcom County has a Task Force working on how to decrease traffic fatalities down to zero. Its manager is Doug Dahl, keeper of the blog The Wise Drive. Check it out for great content that's relevant and funny in all things traffic safety. A recent post linked to this Saturday Night Live skit about teens who have been deemed the worst distracted driving culprits taking a stand against their parents who are just as guilty. So this spawned a rather more serious topic on how parents are their teens role models and must practice what they preach.

Teens look to their parents in many aspects of the life they're getting ready to live independently, just a few short years from adulthood. Driving is one of them. Teens are notoriously observant about what parents do and do not do, especially as it relates to what they say their teens are supposed to do or not do. Because of the deadly nature of distracted driving, it is critical that parents do not drive distracted. As habitual as this unlawful behavior is, it is not good enough to simply vow to not do it when the kids are in the car, either.

A recent survey showed that many parents seem to overestimate how good of a role model they are for their teens about safe driving. 

This survey asked both teens and parents. Parents were asked to rate themselves on how good of a job they were doing on setting a good example on safe driving habits. Teens were asked if their parents texted and drove. 62 percent of parents thought they were good role models. 63 percent of teens saw their parents text and drive. 

It seems like distracted driving shares similarities to distracted walking in this way - another recent poll showed people think they don't use their devices as much as they do when they're on foot. All told, drivers have a disconnect between what we think we do and what we actually do.

Here's another way that parents might inadvertently set a bad example for their teens on distracted drivin: when they call or text their kids when they know they're behind the wheel.

This sends a dangerous message, that it's ok to distracted drive some times. This would not be ok if it's drunk driving, and it's no different with texting, which is just as dangerous as drunk driving

Another thing that impacts how good of an example parents are setting for their teens related to safe driving is when they call or text their teens. Again, the survey showed a big discrepancy between beliefs and actions. Only around a quarter (24 percent) of the surveyed parents said they knowingly called or texted their teen when their teen was at the wheel. However, 44 percent of the polled teens reported that their parents have done this kind of thing.

The irony is that this behavior endangers the very person a parents cares so much about. 

Please, no matter your age, do not text and drive.

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