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Survey: Parents may not be setting the best driving example

As you made your way to work this past week, there's a very good chance that you observed some fairly reckless conduct behind the wheel from speeding and tailgating to running red lights and, of course, distracted driving.

The unfortunate reality is that even though New York has outlawed talking or texting while driving, making it a primary offense, motorists here in the Empire State can still be regularly observed with their smartphones held to their ears or their heads looking downward as they are sending a text message.

In fact, it's not just New York that has a problem with distracted driving, as statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal that 3,360 people were killed in distracted driving-related car accidents in the U.S. in 2011 and another 3,328 were killed in 2012.

While many people want to point the blame for these types of staggering figures largely at teen drivers, a recent survey suggests this may not be altogether fair.

The insurance giant Liberty Mutual recently teamed with Students Against Destructive Decisions to conduct a survey of 2,357 high school juniors and seniors to learn more about the driving habits of their parents.

Somewhat shockingly, the survey revealed the following:

  • 88 percent of teens indicated that their parents talked on a cell phone while behind the wheel.
  • 58 percent of teens indicated that their parents texted while behind the wheel.
  • 42 percent of teens indicated that they had asked their parents to stop texting while driving.
  • 40 percent of teens who asked their parents to stop texting while driving indicated that they were given some type of excuse or ignored entirely.

"We've inundated teenagers with safe-driving messages," Dave Melton, managing director of global safety at Liberty Mutual, said in a phone interview. "They've experienced the consequences, they've put the candles against the telephone poles to remember a friend, or something like that, and they wonder why their parents don't do this."

While it's likely that some of these figures are inflated by the teen respondents, it cannot be denied that many parents are failing to set a good example behind the wheel, something that puts their children and other innocent motorists at risk. Here's hoping that this changes sooner than later.

Source: Bloomberg, "Texting parent drivers shun warnings, Liberty Mutual says," Kelly Gilblom, Aug. 7, 2014

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