One new study finds that up to half the time teenage drivers are on their phones while at the wheel, parents are on the other end, HealthDay reports.
Parents themselves are also often on the phone while driving, and not modeling good car behavior for their kids, the study authors note. But even so, they were surprised by the findings.
Teenage drivers know not to call their friends when they first get licensed, the study found, but that doesn’t apply to family. In in-person interviews with 13 teenagers, the researchers found that every single one of them who admitted to using their phone while driving said they had spoken with their parents — but only 20% admitted to speaking with friends.
The next stage of the research involved 400 drivers ages 15 to 18. Among the teens with learner’s permits, 57% used a phone while driving. The move from permit to license makes it worse: 71% of the 16- and 17-year-olds with unrestricted licenses used phones while driving. And among the 18-year-olds, 90% admitted to phone use while driving.
Over one third of the 15-17-year-old drivers said they spoke with parents while driving, and over 50% of the 18-year-old drivers did, the survey found.
The teenage drivers told the researchers they were in something of a Catch-22 situation: parents don’t want their teenage children using phones while they drive, but then parents whose kids don’t answer when they call may get angry that their kids aren’t being responsive.
In the end, the key to getting kids to cut back on phone use while driving really does lie with mom and dad, but it’s not just about how much they call. It’s about their own dangerous habits, says Jonathan Adkins, executive director of Governors Highway Safety Association. “The message here has to be to parents to stop driving distracted themselves and to set ground rules for teens that they should not be using the phone while driving,” Adkins told HealthDay. “Teens follow what their parents do, not what they say.”