September 11, 2009 / 3:32 PM / 8 years ago

Parents set poor example for teen drivers: poll

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<p>Vehicles drive in New York June 18, 2009.Eric Thayer</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Parents in the United States are setting a poor example behind the wheel for their teenaged children by talking and texting on cell phones and speeding.

Nearly 60 percent of 500 parents with teenage children questioned in an online survey admitted that they chatted on their cells while driving. Forty-two percent said they were guilty of speeding and 17 percent sent a text or email.

Another 40 percent listened to loud music while driving.

"Teens get safe driving examples and advice from many sources -- television ads, driving instructors, friends and family members, but no one more than Mom or Dad," Dave Melton, a driving safety expert with the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, said in a statement.

"And if they grow up watching their Mom or Dad speed, talk on their cell phone, text and email, or pay more attention to what's on the radio than their driving, they are going to think it's okay to do the same thing.

Despite bans on driving-while-texting, or DWT, in 14 states and high-profile accidents that resulted in the deaths and injuries of dozens of people, a quarter of Americans who use cell phone admitted to driving while texting, according to a recent report.

Last year 25 people were killed in a train crash in California and nearly 50 people were injured in a trolley crash in Boston earlier this year. Drivers in both accidents were found to be texting just before the crashes.

Fathers were the worst culprits for setting a bad example behind the wheel in the poll commissioned by insurance group Liberty Mutual, with 75 percent admitting to at least two dangerous driving behaviors, compared to 63 percent of mothers.

Men were also less likely than women to discuss safe driving with their children.

"Safe driving goes beyond learning a skill set, it's a two-way street and requires daily precautions and parental enforcement with clear rewards and consequences," said Stephen Wallace, the chairman of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) a national education, prevention and activism group.

"While Moms are more likely to continue to treat safe teen driving as a priority after their teens pass their driving tests, Dads tend to let driving enforcement slip," he added.

Reporting by Patricia Reaney; editing by Paul Casciato

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