Safety Gap: Parents Impose Rules on Teen Drivers, Teens Don’t Think So

Teen drivers are at the highest risk for crashes and crash-related fatalities, and are particularly vulnerable to distractions while driving.  The results of a new nationwide survey of teens and their parents suggest a considerable disconnect between the limitations parents believe they are imposing on driving and the use of cell phones, and their teens’ view of limitations imposed by their parents. The gap in numerous instances is wide, and has raised concerns about the resulting risks to teen drivers.

In families where parents reported limitations on their teen drivers – such as restricting cell phone use, number of teen passengers and driving times and locations – teens themselves sometimes said they did not have those limitations, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, which indicated that parents play a key role in promoting the safety of their teens by setting expectations for driving.teen drive limits

“We found that the great majority of parents do have rules for their teen drivers; however, teens consistently perceive fewer limits on their driving than what their parents report. This signals an opportunity for parents and teens to have more conversations about safe driving habits,” says lead author Michelle L. Macy, M.D., M.S., an emergency medicine physician at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Parents of teens 13-18 years old and teens themselves were asked about limits placed on driving circumstances that can increase a teen driver’s risk of a crash. About nine in 10 parents report they place at least one limit on their teen drivers while eight out of 10 teens report having at least one driving limit placed on them by their parents.

Among parents and teens who both responded, teens consistently say they have fewer limits on their driving than were reported by their parents.  Overall, 81 percent of teens report having at least one driving limit placed on them by their parents. In families where parents report limits on cell phone use, 13 percent of teens say they have no limits. In families where parents report limits on passengers or driving times/locations, 20 percent of teens say they have no such limits.logo

Limits on cell phone use and texting while driving are most commonly reported by parents and their teens. Fewer limits are set on passengers and driving times/locations. As many as one-quarter of parents report placing no limits on teen passengers or nighttime or highway driving, suggesting opportunities to increase teen driver safety by encouraging parents to place limits on these high-risk driving conditions, officials indicated.  Among the key limitations parents impose, according to the survey:

Limits on cell phone use include:quote

  • requiring teens to park to use their cell phones (86%)
  • forbidding texting while driving (73%)
  • having cell phone turned off or put away (62%)

Limits on passengers include:

  • allowing only 1-2 friends in the car (59%)
  • allowing only certain friends (54%)
  • no teen passengers allowed (40%)

Limits on driving times/locations include:

  • no driving after 10 p.m. (61%)
  • driving only to/from school, work, or activities (57%)
  • no highway driving (36%)

Parents who judge their teens’ driving ability as “above average” (32% of all parents) are less likely to place limits on passengers and driving times/locations. Sixty-seven percent of parents set limits on passengers for their “above-average” teen drivers, compared with 81percent of parents who perceive their teen drivers as “below average.” Similarly, 69 percent of parents set limits on driving times/locations for their above-average teen drivers, compared with 85 parents of parents who perceive their teen as below average. In contrast, parents do not adjust their restrictions on cell phone use in relation to their teens’ driving ability.

There was greater agreement between parents and teens on limits placed on cell phones than on passengers or driving times/locations, according to the national survey, conducted in September 2015 and released earlier this year.

“This may indicate that parents communicate to their teens more clearly their expectations around cell phone use while driving than for other driving situations. It is also possible that parents and teens have greater awareness of the risks of using cell phones while driving, due to media attention on cell phone distractions as a common cause of crashes,” the survey analysis points out.

The analysis also indicated that the higher degree of disagreement between teens and parents in relation to the limits set for passengers and driving times/locations suggests the need for more dialogue in families to ensure rules and expectations around driving are understood. Written parent-teen driving agreements are one way for parents to clearly communicate rules and expectations, officials indicated.

Connecticut’s Tim Hollister, author of two books about parenting and safe teen driving and the website From Reid’s Dad, recently developed a video for parents, with financial support from the Travelers, which underscores the influence of parents in teen driving.  Hollister will be speaking on the subject at the Easton Public Library on February 10 and the Newington Public Library on February 24.  Hollister, whose son Reid died as a result of a car accident at age 17, will share information parents should know regarding teen driving and discuss his most recent book, His Father Still.


Two-Thirds of Drivers Use Cell Phones While Driving Despite Dangers, Survey Says

It turns out that the problems is much greater than just teens.  Texting while driving – like texting – is cutting across the population, presenting dangers that are well-documented and increasingly ignored.  And it’s not only texting – it is the use of phones while driving as well that is causing concerns among safety experts.

New research from the AAA FoundOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAation for Traffic Safety indicates that high school-aged teens report using their phones or texting while driving substantially less often than adults do.  The AAA survey found that adult drivers ages 25-39 were the most likely to admit engaging in these risky behaviors behind the wheel.

Though the practice is hazardous at any age, two out of three drivers reported using a cell phone while driving within the past month. Forty-three percent of adults ages 25-39 reported doing so fairly often or regularly while driving, compared to only 20 percent of teens.  Motorists age 60 and up were the least likely to report using a phone.

“Using your phone while driving may seem safe, but it roughly quadruples your risk of being in a crash according to previous research,” said Stephen Rourke, manager of driving school administration for AAA. “None of us is immune from the dangers of distracted driving. The best advice is to hang up and drive.”AAA age

More than one-in-four motorists reported sending a text or email while driving within the past month. Adults ages 25-39 reported texting and driving most frequently, while those age 60 and up reported doing it the least.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one out of every ten fatal crashes involves distraction, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths per year, although experts agree the numbers are likely underestimated.

Previous research shows that hands-free cell phones offer no significant safety benefits over handheld phones – hands-free is not risk-free.  Earlier this year, Connecticut by the Numbers reported on a proposal in Connecticut to ban the useAAA text chart of electronic devices in vehicles.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety collected the data as part of the 2013 Traffic Safety Culture Index. The data are from a sample of 2,325 licensed drivers, ages 16 and older, who reported driving in the past 30 days.

CT Residents Are Driving Less, Reflecting National Trend

Connecticut residents have cut their per-person driving miles by 3.45 percent since 2005, while the nation’s long term driving boom appears to have ended, according to a report by the ConnPIRG Education Fund. The decline in driving is a national trend, with 46 states including Connecticut having reduced per-person driving since the middle of the last decade.

The 31-page report, “Moving Off the Road: A State-by-State Analysis of the National Decline in Driving,” is based on the most current available government data. The average number of miles driven by Americans is in its eight consecutive year of decline, led Moving Off the Road Thumbnailby declines among Millennials. Connecticut has had the slowest decline in driving in New England, but has the second lowest vehicle miles traveled per person in region, behind Rhode Island. The national trend in driving peaked in 2005.

“It’s time for policy makers to recognize that the driving boom is over. We need to reconsider expensive highway expansions and focus on alternatives such as public transportation and biking—which people increasingly use to get around,” said Abe Scarr, Director of the ConnPIRG Education Fund.

“The Millennial generation is leading the decrease in driving and will be using and paying for our transportation system for years to come.  It is critical that Connecticut plans a system that reflects how people are getting around and want to get around,” said Scarr.  The report noted that “the evidence suggests that the nation’s per-capita decline in driving cannot be dismissed as a temporary side effect of the recession.”

Earlier this year, Governor Malloy and Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker launched a multi-year strategic planning process, Transform CT, which aims to “improve economic growth and competitiveness, build sustainability, and provide a blueprint for a world-class transportation system.”  TransformCT_published_Cycle_Small

Transform CT has established an interactive website to gather public input which has collected nearly 300 comments, suggestions or ideas to date, and will be updated with topics and polls regularly as the strategic plan is developed over 18-20 months. In addition, a series of events will be held throughout the fall to engage the public on the future of transportation in Connecticut.

 “Connecticut’s investment in critical transit projects like CTfastrak and the New Haven-Springfield commuter rail line show that transportation decisions better reflect changing travel preferences of residents,” said Ryan Lynch, associate director for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit policy organization.

The Tri-State Transportation Camcars on hwaypaign, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to reducing car dependency in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, celebrates its 20th anniversary with a fundraising benefit in New York City on November 7.  The Campaign was formed in the early nineties as a response to the mounting economic and environmental costs of automobile and truck dependence and promising reforms in federal transportation policy. Among the organization’s board members is Norman Garrick, Director of the Center for Transportation and Urban Planning at the University of Connecticut.

North Dakota, Nevada, Louisiana and Alabama are the only states in the nation where driving miles per capita in 2011 were above their 2004 or 2005 peaks, the ConnPIRG report found.  Meanwhile, since 2005, double-digit percent reductions occurred in a diverse group of states: Alaska, Delaware, Oregon, Georgia, Wyoming, South Carolina, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Florida.

The states with the biggest reductions in driving miles generally were not the states hit hardest by the economic downturn, according to the ConnPIRG report. The majority—almost three-quarters—of the states where per-person driving miles declined more quickly than the national average actually saw smaller increases in unemployment compared to the rest of the nation, according to the report.