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Parenting Behind the Wheel

Whether we realize it or not, our parents are our first driving instructors. When we’re children, the moment our rear-facing car seat became a forward-facing one, we started watching, learning and adopting the habits of our parents. Think about how you drive: if one of your parents put their right hand on the back of the passenger side headrest when they were parallel parking, chances are good that as an adult you do that, too.

For all of the good habits and traits we get from our parents, we also get their bad habits. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) 2013 National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) at any given moment during daylight hours, over 660,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone. If you’re a parent and you text or talk on the phone while you drive, it’s likely that your child will, too, even if you tell them they shouldn’t. NHTSA data supports this, as 16% of all distracted driving crashes involve drivers under 20.

So what, or who, is going to help us change our habits so the next generation knows to put the phone down while they’re driving?

We have to walk the talk. Make a conscious decision to be the best role model you can be. If it’s hard to ignore the ping of a text or ring of the phone, turn off your phone when you’re driving. Take it out of the equation for yourself and your children will follow your lead.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, a parent himself, knows why it’s so important for parents and trusted adults to set a good example.

Administrator Rosekind’s words about the importance of having your “hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, mind in the game,” at all times when you’re driving matter than much more when the eyes of a child are watching you.

More and more, it’s our kids who are speaking up. Thanks to awareness campaigns, kids feel compelled to say something to their mom or dad when they see them doing something they shouldn’t. Research conducted in 2014 by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) revealed that 60% of teens report they ask their parents to stop driving dangerously.

They’re watching us. For their sake and your own, as well as the safety of those around you on the road, be the best role model you can be behind the wheel.

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