Top News

Parents must set good example for kids

It is important for parents to set a good example for their kids when it comes to driving.
It is important for parents to set a good example for their kids when it comes to driving. - 123RF Stock Photo

Parents know children watch and mimic their actions. This extends to driving, and how significant and often dangerous, copying bad habits can be.

While developing a modern training and testing curriculum south of the border, we monitored the driving of new students once they passed their driving exam. Of course, when they knew they were being watched, they did everything correctly. But when they believed they were out of sight, they immediately slipped into bad habits — doing what they had seen other drivers do. These problems came in two areas — what was considered by their peers to be cool, and what they had seen their parents do.

The peer issues involved not wearing seat belts and some pretty scary seating/hand positions. Looking cool is obviously deemed to be more important than being able to see and take evasive action in an emergency situation. Unfortunately, it also often included not fastening belts, and in some cases excessive speed. The latter two are also frequently, albeit inadvertently, taught by mom and dad. 

Young people are invincible — in their own minds. Despite having plenty of opportunity to see what happens to unbelted occupants in a crash — most schools of any size will suffer such a loss each year – those who chose to ignore such common-sense practices will not be swayed by preaching or teaching. But — and this is a big one — once it happens to them, the learning curve takes a sharp upward spike. Almost half of all new drivers will have a crash in the first year of licensing. Fortunately, the majority are not fatal and serve as a reminder of the vital issues of time, space, distance and paying attention. 

We all know young people follow trends. That applies to everything from music to clothes — and driving habits. Most parents have little if any success in changing that situation. But few parents realize they can influence the effect their driving habits have on these young people.

A whole lot of issues, chief among them privacy, prevented us from going further down the road of monitoring post-licensing behaviour. But other organizations have found similar results. A study by Liberty Mutual and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), in America, revealed high school and middle school students believe their parents to be the biggest influence on how they drive.

Two thirds of the young people said their parents talk on the phone while driving, almost half said mom or dad speed and one-third said their parents don’t wear seat belts. It came as no surprise when these results were reflected in the behavior of those teens with driving licenses. Almost two thirds say they talk on the phone while driving, 67 per cent say they speed and 33 per cent admit to not wearing their belts. 

This study was backed up by factual data from two major sources. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says speeding is a factor in 31 per cent of all fatal crashes. The American National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports speeding is involved in 37 per cent of all young driver deaths. NHTSA says nearly four in five drivers (79 per cent) in the U.S. wear safety belts, yet only 60 per cent of those involved in fatal crashes had belts on. 

Because they have no first-hand experience of the consequences, new drivers who have grown up watching these activities — speeding, no belts and driver distraction — and do not consider them to be unsafe practices. 

The whole issue of setting a good example may have become outdated for many parents in today’s society, but in this case, it can have horrendous results.

Recent Stories