A new study on teen driving behavior has found that beginning drivers mimic the behavior of their parents and that distractions, including cell phones, have a negative effect on safe driving.

Dr. Tina Sayer, the Principal Engineer of the Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center, said teens watch and learn from grownups.

"They are watching and they are mimicking us," Sayer said. “The teenagers are getting their behaviors from their parents.”

Sayer said the study shows there is a lesson there for parents.

"We're encouraging parents to think about what kind of driver they want their teenager to be and try to model that behavior for them," Sayer said.

The study also found that at least half of teens are talking on a hand held cell phone every time they get in the vehicle.

About a third of them are reading a text message at least once every time they drive.
She said there are other distractions as well.

“It can be talking to a passenger,” Sayer said. “It can be drinking a cup of coffee.”

Eighteen-year old Coral Crouch of San Antonio knows what first-time drivers are going through and had some advice.

"Make a plan before you leave and let your friends know before you leave so you're not trying to text and make plans of where to go," Crouch said. “Definitely keep the phone away and just focus on the road, especially in your first year because it can be nerve wracking.”

Her friend, 19-year old Ryan Rogers agreed.

"I mean friends can be distracting as well, too,” Rogers said. “Friends can be causing a ruckus."

Mandy Brown said distractions can be everywhere for teen drivers.

"I think it's real easy to get distracted," Brown said. “That the cell phone should be in the glove box the entire time they're driving.”

Her husband Christopher Brown, said there is a comparison to be made.

"Texting is just the same distraction as if you were drunk driving," Brown said. “It's a big responsibility that people just take for granted these days.”

Sayer said boys are more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than girls and that parents shouldn't just back off when their teen gets a license to drive independently.

"Even after your teenager has gotten their license to drive independently, get back in the car with them," Sayer said. “You should really be in that vehicle as frequently as you can, practice as much as you can under all possible situations.”

Sayer said has more information for parents, including a teen driving pledge that can be printed out. That checklist can include things like, 'I agree to always wear my seatbelt' and 'I will never text and drive.'

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