Study: Parents Part of Problem of Distracted Teen Driving - 8NEWS - WRIC | News Where You Live

Study: Parents Part of Problem of Distracted Teen Driving

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) - A recent report calls out parents as playing "a direct role" in teenage drivers being distracted behind the wheel.

According to the American Psychological Association in a recent report released Friday, they found that "more than half" of teens that were talking on cell phones were actually on the phone with either their mother or father.

For their study, APA researchers interviewed over 400 teen drivers between the ages of 15 and 31, spanning over 30 states. The goal for researchers was to determine why teenage drivers continue to talk and send text messages behind the wheel, despite warnings about the serious hazards of distracted driving.

“Teens said parents expect to be able to reach them, that parents get mad if they don't answer their phone and they have to tell parents where they are,” said Noelle LaVoie, PhD, a cognitive psychologist based in Petaluma, California. The teens also said that their parents use cell phones while driving and that “everyone is doing it,” according to the research, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Distracted driving remains the leading cause of accidents for all drivers. For teens, the figures are more alarming.

National Highway Transportation Safety Administration data shows that distracted driving was the noted cause of 11 percent of fatal crashes and, of those, 21 percent involved cell phones.

A 2013 survey by Liberty Mutual and the nonprofit organization Students Against Destructive Decisions (formerly Students Against Drunk Driving) found that 86 percent of 11th- and 12th-graders use a cell phone while driving, a significant increase from the results of a 2009 Pew survey that found that 43 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds talk on a cell phone while driving and 26 percent text while driving, according to the presentation.

The researchers designed their survey based on in-person interviews with 13 teens, ages 15 to 17, who had learner's permits or driver's licenses. They asked them about typical driving hazards, including talking on a cell phone and texting while driving. Every teen who said he or she talked on the phone while driving talked to parents, while 20 percent said they talked to friends. Among the 395 survey participants, 37 percent of the 15- to 17-year-olds with restricted drivers' licenses and 50 percent of the 18-year-olds with unrestricted licenses said they talked on the phone with a parent while driving.

Researchers concluded that teens were more likely to send messages to friends than parents but, 16 percent of the 18-year-olds surveyed said that they had indeed tested a parent while driving with eight percent of 15- to 17-year olds doing the same.

“Parents need to understand that this is not safe and emphasize to their children that it's not normal or acceptable behavior,” said LaVoie. “Ask the question, ‘Are you driving?' If they are, tell them to call you back or to find a spot to pull over so they can talk.”

Virginia passed a law in 2013 which makes texting while driving a primary offense. Talking on a cell phone remains legal in the Commonwealth.

RELATED: Read the whole APA report, click here.

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