Parents Can Contribute to the Distracted Driving Problem

Author: James Mick "Jamie" Kessel, Short Pump, VA Personal Injury Attorney

Cell phone use has increased dramatically over the last decade. There is no doubt that cell phones have added a certain measure of convenience to daily life, but their use is not always appropriate. Increasingly, cell phones are being used behind the wheel, distracting drivers and causing accidents. Public outcry over news stories involving distracted drivers using cell phones prompted a number of states to take action and pass laws banning their use behind the wheel.

Almost every state has some sort of ban on cell phone use while driving and studies have shown that their enactment has been effective in reducing the number of accidents caused by “texting-while-driving.” Despite the fact that the dangers of texting and driving have been well-publicized, drivers continue to seriously injure and kill people every day while using their cell phones behind the wheel.

Because the distracted driving epidemic is so significant, many studies have been conducted in order to determine whether a comprehensive solution is possible. Though any kind of comprehensive solution is a long way off, these studies have provided a lot of insight into distracted drivers. A study conducted by Liberty Mutual and Students Against Destructive Decisions in 2013 revealed that an astronomical 86% of 11th and 12th graders had used a cell phone while driving.[1] After a more recent study, researchers may finally be able to answer why this number is so high.

As it turns out, parents might be responsible for teenage drivers’ cell phone use behind the wheel. Researchers designed a survey based on personal interviews with 13 teenagers, and distributed it to 395 drivers between the ages of 15 and 17.[2] Of the drivers who had used their cell phones while driving, 100% said that they were talking to parents while only 20% reported speaking to friends.[3] That being said, the same study found that teen drivers were more likely to text their friends than their parents while driving.[4] The researchers also found that teens had a variety of reasons for talking to parents on the phone, including: parents expect to be able to reach them; parents get mad if they don’t answer the phone and parents need to know where they are.[5] Another revelation from the study – environmental factors might impact whether a teenager uses his or her cell phone while driving. The teens in the study cited their parents’ use of cell phones and the fact that “everyone else was doing it” as reasons for using their cell phones behind the wheel.[6]

What does this mean moving forward? Parents should be more proactive in communicating the dangers of distracted driving with their children.[7] Parents should also avoid using their cell phones while driving in order to set an example for younger, inexperienced drivers.[8]

About The Author: Jamie Kessel is a personal injury attorney with the Allen Law Firm. He represents victims who have been injured due to car accidents, tractor trailer accidents, and distracted driving accidents. Jamie works out of the Short Pump, VA office. 


[1] Lisa Bowen, Parents Part of Problem in Distracted Teen Driving, Study Finds, American Psychological Association (Aug. 8, 2014), http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/08/teen-driving.aspx.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id

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