Teens and risky driving behavior

Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions recently conducted a survey about teen driving, revealing there are some major discrepancies between what teens consider to be risky driving and what they actually do on the road. The survey also revealed that a large percentage of teens reported that their parents engage in risky behavior behind the wheel, which is likely to be repeated by teens.

When teenagers get their license, they are likely to have high auto insurance rates, as these drivers are seen as a higher risk. There are a few ways to cut down the costs, including getting good grades or taking an extra safe-driving course. However, the latest survey might reveal that teens' lack of understanding about safe driving could be setting them up for potential hazards.

The dangers of drinking and driving
One of the most surprising findings of the survey was the number of teens who say they understand the dangers of drinking and driving, but do it anyway. According to the survey, 86 percent of teens say that driving while under the influence is extremely distracting. By comparison, only 1 percent said it was acceptable to drive while under the influence of alcohol. Just 5 percent of teens said they would drive under the influence of alcohol.

However, teens seem to misunderstand what it means to be under the influence, as one in 10 who said they never drive under the influence admitted that they will occasionally drive after consuming an alcoholic drink. Of teens who said they had driven after drinking, they reported doing so after having more than three drinks.

"While many teens seem to have gotten the message about these driving dangers, the real challenge is to make sure they understand that even a sip of alcohol or a quick text at a red light can be deadly," said David Melton, a Liberty Mutual Insurance driving safety expert and global safety managing director. "Teens need to realize it's not acceptable to put an allowable limit to their engagement in these behaviors - they need to be eliminated entirely when they are behind the wheel."

Designated driver
The disparity between understanding and behavior was further scrutinized when teens were asked about using a designated driver and what the definition of "designated" means. When parents were asked whether teens should use a designated driver - despite the fact the fact that underage drinking is illegal - 58 percent of parents encouraged teens to do this to avoid driving under the influence. Nearly half of teens admitted that they have used a designated driver.

While a designated driver can be a good alternative to driving under the influence, the term took on a different meaning among teens. The result showed that 21 percent of teens said they define designated driver as "basically sober" while 4 percent said this driver was the "least impaired."

These lax definitions are cause for concern among parents and advocates for safe driving, but they pose a good opportunity for parents to have a discussion with their teens about what safe driving really means.

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