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A recent survey of teen and parent drivers found 53 percent of parents were distracted at least once while their teen was driving, commonly by their cell phone. Some indicated it is a more frequent occurrence, while more than 40 percent told researchers they used their phone while driving in front of their teens occasionally or with greater frequency.
When the researchers asked the teens, 61 percent said their parents were distracted by their phone at least once during a practice drive. Almost 30 percent of them indicated it happened more often or even frequently. More than half reported seeing their parents talking on the phone while driving "sometimes, often or all the time".
Even if the discrepancy between teen and parent reports is ignored in favor of the lower statistics, these results represent a problem. From the immediate perspective, the number of drivers who engage in distracted driving, which may double reaction times, is dangerous.
In addition, parents seem to be unintentionally setting the example that it is acceptable to drive and talk on the phone simultaneously. This is likely to influence future drivers into the same behavior, and it may become habitual.
Finally, distraction by either the teen or the parent during driving practice and learning may detract from the effectiveness of practice. The survey also found almost a quarter of parents and a third of teens believed they were spending insufficient time in practice.
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