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Teen drivers ape parents’ habits

By Tara Baukus Mello · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Posted: 11 am ET

A parent's influence on his or her child extends to a teenager's driving habits, greatly influencing how a teen behaves while driving a car -- regardless of whether the parent actually has "bad" behaviors or not. A new study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, or UMTRI, and Toyota finds that teens are more likely to display dangerous behavior while driving, simply because they believe their parents also do it, even though, in reality, parents may be driving safely.

The UMTRI/Toyota Teen Driver Distraction Study, the largest scientific survey of its kind, conducted telephone interviews of over 5,500 teen drivers and their parents living in the same household during August and September this year.

Researchers asked questions about a variety of behaviors while driving a car, including eating and drinking, using an electronic device for music, reading or writing down directions, looking for something or dealing with passenger issues, concerns or conflicts. They found that if teens simply thought that their parents exhibited these behaviors, they were significantly more likely to display that behavior themselves.

The findings are important because car crashes are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for teens. Even those crashes that aren't fatal can wrack up thousands in medical expenses and increased auto insurance rates.

Researchers said that these findings represent an initial analysis that look at risk factors that receive less public attention but still pose great risks. Analysis of the study has just begun, and researchers expect to publish other findings over the next few months.

Do you display any of those behaviors? Does your child display those same behaviors?

Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

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