Remember when your child was learning to walk and constantly wanted to copy you as you walked around the house? Remember when they would parrot back everything that you said while learning language skills for themselves?
You cannot underestimate the impact that a parent has on what a child learns. They're always paying attention and picking things up. They're learning about the world and about themselves. The way you parent massively impacts the way that they grow up.
But this does not stop when they go to school or even enter their teenage years. They're still learning from their parents, for better or worse — and a recent study determined that distracted driving trends are highly connected to parental examples.
For instance, the study asked parents if they would talk to passengers or deal with issues in the car while the vehicle was in motion. When parents said that they did so, it turned out that teenage children were twice as likely to deal with passenger issues as teens whose parents did not set that example.
The same was true for drinking and eating in the car. When parents said they would do it — grabbing some fast food dinner on the way home from work, for instance — then teenagers were twice as likely to eat or drink while driving themselves.
What is even more interesting is how perceptions played into the issue. If a teenage driver believes that their parents will handle passenger issues behind the wheel, that young driver is five times more likely to copy that perceived behavior. If the teen thinks that the parent eats in the car, then that teen is three times as likely to pick up food and eat it without stopping the vehicle.
Regardless of perception, though, it is clear that parents play a huge role in teenagers' lives. The poor examples they set always increase risky behavior with teen drivers, and the only question is how much it will increase. On the flip side, setting a good example can make it far less likely that teens will engage in distracting behavior.
More than what you say
Many parents lean on the fact that they gave their teenage driver instructions, but this study shows that simply saying something isn't enough. If a parent tells a child not to text and drive but then frequently decides to text and drive with that child in the car, is it realistic to expect the child to follow the instructions or the example?
This study helps to shed light on why drivers take risks, but it does not eliminate them. If you get seriously injured in an accident with a distracted driver, make sure you know what legal steps to take.