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Ford: Teens see right through parental safe driving claims

Almost all parents perceive themselves as safe drivers, but 82 percent of their teenage kids profess witnessing careless driving by parents. Ford is expanding their award-winning teen driving program in response to the 25 percent of teens with no formal driver education and the concerns of parents who see such education evaporating due to budget cuts.
Posted: April 27, 2011 - 6:50PM
Author: Don Bain


Over 75 percent of tweens say they'll rely heavily on parental advice when they start driving. According to Dr. Charles Sophy, a nationally renowned family psychologist, parents can have a positive impact as role models and by discussing safe driving with their children.

Motor vehicle accidents remain the greatest threat to mortality for teens according to national statistics. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 16 percent of all drivers under 20 involved in fatal crashes were allegedly distracted before the incident.

U.S. teens and tweens insist their parents are riskier drivers than claimed, according to a new national survey commissioned by Ford Motor Company. Nearly all parents believe they are safe drivers and positive role models for their kids, but 51 percent admit their kids have urged them to slow down, stop talking, texting or displaying other risky behaviors.

A top-heavy majority of these kids have seen parents engage in unsafe behaviors behind the wheel. At the same time, 78 percent of tweens say their moms and dads have "a lot of influence" on their driving and 66 percent of teenagers say their parents' influence their actions.

"There seems to be a gap between parents saying they drive safely and what their kids observe," said Sue Cischke, Ford group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering. "Eating, reading and hand-held texting are bad habits that teens and tweens pick up. Ford continues to be part of the solution by expanding our teen safe driving education program and in-vehicle technologies that help improve safe driving behavior."

Other findings include:

* 82 percent of parents would like to enroll their child in a safe driver-training program, yet less than 20 percent actually do.

• As schools outsource driver education programs, 83 percent of parents express concern.

• Parents rate comprehensive driver training as the best way to improve safety while teens look to new technologies such as voice-controlled, hands-free connectivity systems to make their current behaviors safer.

Our conclusion: We are collectively raising a generation that truly believes technology can solve all their problems and science is mankind’s brother.

Though Ford, and indeed most manufacturers, continue to invest heavily in new safety technology, behavior will still be a factor in safety until cars really do drive themselves and crashes are eliminated completely.

Nevertheless, Ford is ramping up its Driving Skills for Life program by extending its cost-free training to 30 additional markets during 2011, providing parents and new drivers with safer driving skills. Over 400,000 students have participated in the program that includes hands-on driving plus web-based learning and tutorials built into school curricula.

Handing over the keys, and advice
"Open communication with your child is vital as they are reaching the driving age," said Dr. Sophy. "First, set a positive example or they won't take you seriously. Then, take time to talk with them about expectations like curfews, driving destinations and speed limits, and do so on a regular basis. Encourage them to attend local driving clinics or volunteer with community police departments to see firsthand what happens on the road. This can help empower your youngsters to make good decisions."

Reducing distractions
According to NHTSA, in 2009 there were more than 2,300 young fatalities involving drivers from age 15 to 20 years old plus nearly 200,000 injured in crashes. While inattention or distraction – such as daydreaming, talking with passengers, eating or hand-held texting – is a factor for 11 percent of all drivers in fatal crashes, it is reported that 16 percent of all drivers under 20 in fatal crashes were distracted.

Research confirms distractions taking drivers' eyes off the road for more than two seconds are a factor in nearly 80 percent of accidents. Ford's findings show teens report their parents are distracted by eating or drinking (57 percent), talking or texting on a hand-held phone (42 percent) and other distractions such as grooming (32 percent).

Ford emphasizes through its Driving Skills for Life program and new technologies how to combat these risks after finding teens can be particularly distracted with new electronics. For example, Ford's research showed teens look away from the road far too long with distractions like dialing a phone number.

For more information about Ford Driving Skills for Life, visit to get details about this year's tour including modules, quizzes, car care and driving tip videos and games. Free educator packets are available for students, parents, educators and community organizations.