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Texting Truths: Parents To Blame For Distracted Teen Driving

By Kara Baskin

Does your teenager spend too much time texting behind the wheel? They might have learned it from you. Parents play a direct role in distracted teen driving, with more than half of teenagers talking on cellphones with their mother or father while driving, according to new research presented at the American Psychological Association's 122nd Annual Convention last week.

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According to the APA, researchers interviewed or surveyed more than 400 teen drivers from 31 states, ages 15 to 18, to find out why they talk and text behind the wheel, despite the well-publicized risks.

Based on the interviews, it seems teenagers are actually afraid of worrying their parents if they don't respond right away.

"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," said Noelle LaVoie, PhD, a cognitive psychologist based in Petaluma, California. The teenagers also said that their parents use cellphones while driving. They also offered the classic teen excuse: "Everyone is doing it."

According to a 2013 survey by Liberty Mutual and Students Against Destructive Decisions (formerly Students Against Drunk Driving), 86 percent of 11th- and 12th-graders use a cellphone while driving.

The APA study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of crashes among all drivers: According to Distraction.gov, 10 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of distracted drivers.

So, next time your teenager doesn't call or text back right away, let it go and play Words With Friends for a while.


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