Where Do Kids Learn To Text & Drive? Ford Survey Blames Mom & Dad

April 27, 2011
Ford's Safe Driving Survey

Ford's Safe Driving Survey

Ever wonder where kids pick up their unsafe driving habits? If you're a parent, Ford says that you may be the one to blame.

Ford recently surveyed 908 people in the U.S.: 301 of those were tweens (age 9 - 12), 302 were teens (age 13 - 19), and 305 were parents of kids in those age ranges. The findings, while enlightening, weren't terribly surprising. Here are some of the major takeaways:

  • About 95% of all parents say that they're safe drivers, but 82% of teens say that they've seen mom and/or dad engage in unsafe driving behavior like texting and driving, talking on a mobile phone, or speeding.
  • About 78% of tweens say their parents have "a lot of influence" on the way they will drive.
  • About 66% of teen drivers say that their driving habits are influenced by those of their parents.
  • 82% of the parents surveyed expressed interest in putting their children through driver training programs, but less than 20% actually do.
  • Worst of all: vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for teens, and those accidents are frequently caused by distracted drivers.

Ford launched the 2011 Safe Driving Survey for a couple of reasons -- not least of which was to encourage teens to enroll in its Driving Skills for Life program, a free, nationwide program for teens who have earned or are about to earn their drivers' licenses.

Ford is also using the data to talk up the importance of its new safety technology, like SYNC (which offers hands-free communications and entertainment services) and Ford's popular MyKey feature (which parents can use to set limits on speed and radio volume).

For more details about the Driving Skills for Life program, check this video overview. For more details about Ford's 2011 Safe Driving Survey, enlarge the graphic above, or peruse the press release below. And parents, if you'd like some tools to help combat one of today's biggest distractions for teen drivers -- namely, texting and driving -- check out some of the smartphone apps we've reviewed like DriveSafe.ly, PhoneGuard, and SafeCell.

* * * * *

Ford Survey: Parents Say They Drive Safely but Teens Observe Troubling Risks

  •     Nearly all (95 percent) parents believe they’re safe drivers yet 82 percent of teens report seeing their parents be careless when driving
  •     More than three quarters of tweens say they will rely heavily on their parents’ advice when they start to drive. Nationally renowned family psychologist says parents can have a positive impact by serving as role models and discussing safe driving practices with their children
  •     Ford expands award-winning teen safe driving program as 25 percent of teens say they have had no formal driver education training and 83 percent of parents who have seen cutbacks in such programs express concern
  •     Federal statistics show motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for teens. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving

NEW YORK, April 26, 2011 – U.S. teens and tweens say their parents are riskier drivers than they claim, according to a new national survey commissioned by Ford Motor Company. While nearly all parents say they are safe drivers and good role models for their kids, more than half (51 percent) admit their teens and tweens have asked them to slow down, stop talking or texting by hand, or practice other safe driving behaviors.

An even larger number (80 percent) of teens and tweens have seen their parents engage in risky actions behind the wheel while looking to their elders as driving role models. Meantime, 78 percent of tweens say their mothers and fathers have “a lot of influence” on the way they will drive and 66 percent of teenage drivers say their parents’ actions influence their driving.

“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 key findings from the new survey:

  •     82 percent of parents expressed interest in enrolling their child in a safe driver training program, yet less than 20 percent currently do
  •     With many schools outsourcing driver education programs nationwide, 83 percent of parents who have seen such cuts express concern
  •     Parents rank more comprehensive driver education programs as the top way to improve safety while teens prioritize new technologies such as voice-controlled, hands-free connectivity systems

Ford continues to invest heavily in new safety technology and is ramping up its Driving Skills for Life program by extending its cost-free training to 30 additional markets in 2011, providing parents and new drivers with enhanced tools and driving skills. To date, 400,000 students have participated in the program, which includes hands-on driving along with 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 family communications expert Dr. Charles 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.”

Today, Ford hosts an interactive panel discussion led by Dr. Sophy and company safety experts to interpret the research results and discuss ways to enhance teen driving safety. The panel includes Jim Graham, manager, Ford Driving Skills for Life; and Andy Sarkisian, Ford safety planning and strategy manager and one of the creators of Ford’s MyKey® teen driving safety technology and his daughter Lauren, who inspired the innovation after two crashes. Nicole Blades, contributor to Cosmopolitan Magazine, is moderating the panel.

Reducing distractions
According to NHTSA, in 2009 there were more than 2,300 young (age 15 to 20 years) driver fatalities and nearly 200,000 young drivers 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 younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were distracted while driving.

The most compelling research shows distractions that take drivers’ eyes away from the road for an extended period of time are a factor in nearly 80 percent of accidents. Ford’s findings show teens most commonly 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 its research showed that teens can be particularly distracted with new electronics. For example, Ford’s research showed teens generally look away from the road longer to perform tasks such as dialing a phone number.

Safer driving tools
Ford is also making advancements in auto safety technologies to shape teens’ current and future driving experiences, such as:

    MyKey – Programmable teen safety feature can limit the vehicle’s top speed (at 65, 70, 75 or 80 mph) and audio volume to 44 percent of total volume. MyKey also encourages seat belt use by muting the audio system if front occupants aren’t buckled up, and can be programmed to block inappropriate radio content

    SYNC® – Hands-free communication technology links with a user’s cellular phone and music player so they can more safely make calls and listen to their favorite songs. The 911 Assist feature helps quickly connect drivers directly to a local emergency operator in the event of an accident

    Intelligent vehicles – Ford is the first automaker to tour the country with prototypes of “talking vehicles” with advanced Wi-Fi technology that one day could alert drivers of potential collisions they don’t see and reduce traffic congestion and wasted fuel. Intelligent vehicles could potentially help in 81 percent of all police-reported light-vehicle crashes involving unimpaired drivers, according to a NHTSA report

For more information about Ford Driving Skills for Life, visit www.drivingskillsforlife.com 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.


About the survey
The survey, conducted by Kelton Research, offers a cross-generational look at thoughts and behaviors related to driving safety. The respondent sample included 908 people (305 parents of 9- to 19-year-olds, 302 teens ages 13 to 19, and 301 tweens ages 9 to 12).

About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 164,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.

About Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services
Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services works with community partners to advance driving safety, education and American heritage and community life. The Ford Motor Company Fund has operated for more than 60 years with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Company. The award-winning Ford Driving Skills for Life program teaches new drivers through a variety of hands-on and interactive methods. Innovation in education is encouraged through national programs that enhance high school learning and provide college scholarships and university grants. Through the Ford Volunteer Corps, more than 20,000 Ford employees and retirees each year work on projects that better their communities in dozens of countries. For more information, visit www.community.ford.com.

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