Parents have a major impact on kids' driving habits

February 20, 2015 09:03 AM

Young drivers face a lot of challenges on the roads. In addition to navigating this unfamiliar territory, these motorists also have to make a lot of tough decisions that impact their future driving experiences. Fortunately for many of these individuals, they have parents and other trusted adults to help shape their choices - and those opinions may carry a lot of weight. 

Parents impact car choices 
A study from Michigan State University showed that drivers are prone to purchasing the same brand of car their parents had. According to the report, children are 39 percent more likely to buy from a certain manufacturer if their parents used that brand. Researchers believe that it could be because kids tend to have similar financial situations and driving needs as their parents, but fond memories and a positive experience with a certain brand is a major factor. 

"Is this really about the cars or could it be other factors, like parents and children tending to be more similar to each other than other people?" said Soren Anderson, an economist who co-authored the study. "We're pretty sure it has something to do with the cars themselves."

Brand loyalty is important, but parents also have safety and financial considerations. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the vast majority of parents - about 83 percent - choose used cars for their kids. That's likely to keep potential auto repair costs in check, but it also limits the available safety features. It also affects the type of vehicle young drivers will look at in the future and the type of habits they form on the road. 

Safety remains a priority
Most parents want to go above and beyond to ensure their kids are safe behind the wheel. It all starts by choosing the right car seat for infants, and then it progresses to acting as a positive driving role model and demonstrating good habits. 

Although parents may want to emphasize safety, they may unknowingly be contributing to distracted driving. Research presented at the American Psychological Association's 122nd Annual Convention found that teens are often distracted by their parents, who try to remain in contact with their kids through cellphones. Teens reported feeling as though adults will get mad if they don't answer their phones and say where they are, and as a result they'll answer a phone even when they should be completely focused on the road. 

"Parents need to understand that this is not safe and emphasize to their children that it's not normal or acceptable behavior," said Noelle LaVoie, Ph.D., a psychologist. "Ask the question, 'Are you driving?' If they are, tell them to call you back or to find a spot to pull over so they can talk."

Passing on knowledge 
Car preferences aren't the only things passed on from parents to their children. Adults also need to take steps to teach young motorists the ways of the road, whether it's defensive driving techniques or vehicle maintenance tricks. 

The knowledge should start with the procedure to follow in the event of an accident. Young motorists need to know who to contact, how to remain safe in different surroundings and how to size up repairs. It's also helpful to be able to complete various maintenance tasks that may be needed in a pinch. Changing tires on the side of the road can be the band-aid needed to hold a vehicle over until it can get to a repair shop. 

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