Teens want their friends to drive safer in 2008
With motor vehicle accidents claiming between 5,000 and 6,000 teen lives each year, a new survey commissioned by an insurance company reveals that many teens do not take personal responsibility for safe driving and continue to engage in dangerous driving behaviors.
While nearly 90 percent of teens surveyed said they hope their friends will be safer on the road in 2008, just 11 percent included “driving more safely” among their personal New Year’s resolutions. One-third (34 percent) of teens surveyed reported being frightened as a passenger because the driver was being careless, but did not say anything to the driver.
“Our survey found that teens are making New Year’s resolutions about getting better grades, exercising more and other good things, but far too few are resolving to be safer drivers,” said Kate Hollcraft, spokesman for Allstate’s Southern Region. “Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S., and the holidays are among the most dangerous times of the year for teens on the road. Unfortunately, our survey shows that teens have other things on their mind than driving safely.”
According to the survey, about 40 percent of teens surveyed plan to exercise more and 40 percent hope to improve their grades, while only 11 percent will resolve to drive safer in 2008, ranking dead last in the survey.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents admitted to driving more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, 22 percent have raced another vehicle and 19 percent have received a traffic ticket. And an alarming 18 percent of respondents admit to being a passenger in a car being driven by a teen who was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Further supporting the importance of peer influence that exists among teen drivers who are willing to break the law yet want their friends to drive safer, respondents were specifically interested in having their friends eliminate unsafe practices including driving without seatbelts (41 percent) and speeding (40 percent). And, while teens may be excited about the new MP3 player their friend received as a holiday gift this year, they don’t want them distracted by it while driving. More than two-thirds of teens surveyed said they wanted their friends to avoid technology distractions (i.e. texting, talking on a cell phone and scrolling through an MP3 player) while driving.
“These are alarming results, considering every year for the past decade between 5,000 and 6,000 teenagers were killed in motor vehicle accidents. No other hazard or behavior comes close to claiming as many teen lives,” said Hollcraft. “As we reflect on our lives and see what we can be doing better for the upcoming year, encouraging safe driving is a great conversation for parents to hold with their teens. Parental guidance and involvement in these first and defining years is critical for young drivers.”
A recent study published by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development indicates intervention materials, such as a parent-teen driving agreement for newly licensed drivers, reduces high-risk driving behaviors such as texting.
The survey also shows that many teenagers are familiar with drivers contracts and that nearly one third (30 percent) of teens who have heard of these agreements have signed one. The dialogue that the contract opens — dialogue that needs to be sustained between parents and teens — can be just as important as the signed agreement.
“By opening up a dialogue with teens, parents can influence their child’s behavior — and nearly half of teens are having ‘good conversations’ with their parents about the importance of safe driving,” said Hollcraft. “However, the research shows the dialogue needs to be frequent and meaningful; a parent-teen driving contract is a good starting point for these discussions.”
The survey, designed and conducted by TRU, a youth-research specialist, polled 917 teens, aged 16-18. The interviews were conducted online to avoid any bias that adult-administered surveys may have. The sample is representative of the online U.S. teen population (93 percent of whom are online) and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points in total at the 95 percent confidence level. The survey was conducted Dec. 7-14, 2007.
Published in The Messenger 1.1.08