Many have observed the recent uptick in teenage drivers having accidents while text messaging, often with tragic consequences. Liberty Mutual and Students Against Destructive Decisions have recently carried out research that shows texting to be the list-topping distraction among the more than 900 teens they polled. SADD and Liberty Mutual have been collecting data for seven years about teen behavior, attitudes and decision making while driving. They've amassed a treasure trove of information about what kids do while they should be driving, and how effective their parental units are at laying out and enforcing rules.

Rather than merely yell about the sky falling while burying their heads in the sand, Liberty Mutual and SADD have developed a set of recommendations for parents when it comes to teen drivers. The suggestions are all good, and mostly common sense; things such as being familiar with your state's graduated licensing laws, following through with consequences for flouting rules, you know, all the stuff we used to be worried about our parents doing. We hope the effort has some effect - even without the distraction of electronic toys while driving, teenagers are the least experienced drivers on the road, and thus need to be the most vigilant about having all their facilities concentrated on the task of keeping a 3,000 pound potential weapon in control.

follow the jump to see what other top distractions affect teen drivers

[Source: SADD]



PRESS RELEASE

Teens Admit Text Messaging Most Distracting While Driving


SADD Chairman Stephen Wallace available to discuss teen decision-making behind the wheel

BOSTON, July 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Recent teen driving tragedies involving text messaging while driving are evidence that driving distractions are becoming as prevalent as drinking and driving in terms of inhibiting teens' driving abilities.

According to recent teen driving research by SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and Liberty Mutual Insurance Group, instant and text messaging while driving leads the list as the biggest distraction while driving for teens.

In a national survey of more than 900 teens with driver's licenses from 26 high schools, teens rated the following behaviors or activities as "extremely" or "very" distracting:

Instant or text messaging while driving - 37 percent
[The teen driver's] emotional state - 20 percent
Having several friends in the car - 19 percent
Talking on a cell phone - 14 percent
Eating or drinking - 7 percent
Having a friend in the car - 5 percent
Listening to music - 4 percent


SADD and Liberty Mutual have collaborated on seven years of research on teens' attitudes, behaviors, and decision-making behind the wheel. Study results include data on cell phone use while driving, alcohol and drug use, seat belt use, and speeding, as well as comparative data between teens and parents.

SADD Chairman and CEO Stephen Wallace and SADD Executive Director Penny Wells are available to further discuss study results, including texting while driving and teen behavior in general behind the wheel.

What Can Concerned Parents Do?

While most states have adopted or are adopting legislation around teen driving, the restrictions of teen driving laws vary from state to state. Based on the extensive research over the past seven years, SADD and Liberty Mutual have set forth the following all-encompassing recommendations for concerned parents of teenagers.

-- Know your state's Graduated Driver License laws and restrictions,
including unsupervised driving, time of day, and passengers in the car,
and enforce them. The Governors Highway Safety Association provides a
description of each state's laws at http://www.statehighwaysafety.org/.

-- Set family rules about driving and outline clear consequences for
breaking the rules. Liberty Mutual and SADD suggest some rules if they
are not covered by your state laws:
-- No use of alcohol or other drugs
-- No cell phone use, including text messaging
-- Limit or restrict friends in the car without an adult
-- No driving after 10 p.m.
-- Keep two hands on the wheel - No distractions while driving,
including eating, changing CDs, handling iPods, and putting on
makeup

-- Enforce consequences if a family rule is broken. The SADD/Liberty
Mutual studies show that parental enforcement bolsters safe driving
habits. More than half (52 percent) of teens who say their parents are
unlikely to follow through on a consequence if they break a driving law
report they talk on a cell phone while driving, compared to only 36
percent of teens who believe their parents would indeed penalize them.

-- Do as you say. Exhibit behaviors in the car that you would like your
teen to emulate. And, don't engage in behaviors you have established as
off limits for your teen. While young people say overwhelmingly their
parents are or will be the biggest influence on how they drive, almost
two thirds (62 percent) of high school teens say their parents talk on
a cell phone while driving; almost half (48 percent) say their parents
speed; and almost a third (31 percent) say their parents don't wear a
safety belt.

-- Sign a teen driving contract. SADD's Contract for Life can be found at
http://www.sadd.org/contract.htm.

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