Warning to parents during ‘riskiest’ teen driving season; distracted driving a worry


teen drivingSummer, with its fun in the sun and warm nights, is the riskiest teen driving season of the year.

And that flies in the face of most parents’ perceptions that winter is the most dangerous for teen driving, according to a new survey conducted by Penn Schoen Berland and commissioned by the Ford Motor Company.

“As summer begins, what can be the most fun season of the year for teens can also be the riskiest,” said the survey, which revealed new insights about teen driving habits and perceptions.

Summer months had the highest number of teen driver fatalities from 2007 to 2011, according to an analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. With many children now out of school, time on their hands and vehicles at their disposal, that may be a worry for parents heading into summer.

For 2011, the latest data available, there were 358 teen driver fatalities in traffic crashes during June, July and August, as compared to 271 teen driver fatalities during the winter (December, January and February). But the survey results of 500 teens and 500 parents show more than half of teens (66 percent) and parents (58 percent) believe winter is the most dangerous season for teens on the road.

The survey polled teen drivers and parents, and reveals some other surprising results:

  • 76 percent of teens and 83 percent of parents consider the dangers of distracted driving to be comparable to drunken driving, yet parents are 40 percent more likely to check their phones while driving than their teenage children
  • Parents are concerned about their teens having safe driving habits, but only 26 percent of parents surveyed use a safety device to reinforce safe driving habits
  • Survey shows risks differ between genders; teenage boys are more likely to engage in aggressive driving, while teenage girls are more likely to engage in distractions that are social in nature

Distracted driving, meanwhile, is a growing concern for parents, said the survey, released last week. It shows teens engage in several distracting activities while behind the wheel, such as:

  • 62 percent of teen drivers admit to being distracted by others in the car
  • 61 percent of teens admit to eating or drinking while driving
  • 42 percent of teens say they turn up the radio so loud they can’t hear vehicles nearby
  • 51 percent of teens say they listen to an iPod or MP3 player

On results of the survey, Steve Kenner, global director, Automotive Safety Office, Ford Motor Company, said, “Ford has a long record as a safety leader, and continues to work through many channels to help address the risk factors associated with inexperienced drivers.”

Survey results should give concerned parents plenty to think about this summer.