A new study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), sponsored by Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan shows that teen drivers do a lot more texting behind the wheel than their parents think they do.

The study found that 26 percent of teen drivers surveyed said they read or sent a text message from a smartphone at least one time every time they drive. But only one percent of the parents polled believed their teen engages in this risky driving behavior.

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The bad news gets even worse with respect to texting and driving. Twenty percent, or one in five teens, admitted to multi-message text conversations while behind the wheel.

Other survey findings

  • 69 percent of teens – more than two-thirds – drive with two to three teen passengers in the car and no adults, behavior proven to double the driver’s risk of being killed in a crash.
  • 44 percent of teens drive with three or more teen passengers and no adults in the car, quadrupling the driver’s risk of being killed.
  • 50 percent of teen drivers say they deal with passengers while driving, and 30 percent say they do so at least once every trip.
  • More than half of teens search for music on a portable music device while driving, while only 12 percent of parents do this.
  • One in 10 teens updates or checks social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter while behind the wheel.

Drive like you want your teen to drive

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That’s the bad news. The good news is that the survey of more than 2,600 newly-licensed drivers age 16 to 18 and nearly 3,000 parents of drives in this group found that parents have a significant influence in how their teens drive.

Specifically, parents are urged to teach model positive driving behavior – almost from the time the child seat is turned from rear-facing to forward-facing. As Tina Sayer, CSRC principal engineer and teen driving safety expert said in a release, “Seat belts and good defensive driving skills are critical.”

Her one piece of advice to parents of newly-licensed drivers to help them remain safe on the road: “Be the driver you want your teen to be.”


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This article originally appeared at The Car Connection.