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Study: Teen Drivers Often on Phone with Parent

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Teen talking on phone while driving. Image courtesy TeenDriverSource.org, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia | Research Institute

Image courtesy TeenDriverSource.org, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia | Research Institute

A new study finds that more than half of teens talking on their cellphones while driving are speaking with their mother or father, writes Maureen Salamon for CBSNews Healthday. And often those same parents have cautioned their teens about the dangers of driving while distracted, writes redOrbit.

The study, titled Is That Mom on the Phone? Teen Drivers and Distraction, was presented last Friday at the American Psychological Association’s 122nd annual convention, in Washington, D.C., Gil Aegerter reports for Today Health. To conduct the study, Petaluma, Calif.-based cognitive psychologist Dr. Noelle LaVoie and her colleagues — Yi-Ching Lee of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and James Parker, a research associate at Parallel Consulting — surveyed and interviewed more than 400 drivers between the ages of 15 and 18, redOrbit writes.  The young drivers were from 31 states. The researchers asked the teens why they keep using cellphones while driving, after being told of the risks of distracted driving.

LaVoie called the findings “a real shock,” Salaman writes. The researcher is quoted in redOrbit as saying:

‘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…. Parents need to understand that this is not safe and emphasize to their children that it’s not normal or acceptable behavior. 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.’

While 53% of those teens surveyed said that when they talk on their cellphone while driving they’re speaking with a parent on the phone, a smaller but significant number of teen drivers said they text with their parents while driving, Aegerter writes. The new study finds that despite campaigns to educate teens about the dangers of distracted driving, the proportion of teens who use cellphones while driving has risen. Salaman writes:

Distracted driving causes 11 percent of fatal crashes among teens, and 21 percent of those crashes involve cellphones, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Salaman adds that teens follow the example of their parents and others who use cellphones while driving, according to the study. She quotes Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Association in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the study:

‘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…. Teens follow what their parents do, not what they say.’

‘The biggest [strategy] is through education with parents…. They have to change the culture so it’s no longer acceptable for anyone to use their cellphone and drive. This is a wake-up call for good parenting.’

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