Parents distracted while teaching kids to drive

5:16 AM, Oct 17, 2011   |    comments
Marcie Taphorn of Grenfield, Ind., says she sometimes talks on her cell phone while she's out teaching her daughter, Hannah,17, to drive. By Mike Fender, USA TODAY
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Despite a four-year national campaign against distracted driving, a majority of parents admit being distracted by cellphones or other electronic devices - even while teaching their children to drive.

That's according to a survey by insurer State Farm, which found that 53% of parents admitted being distracted by the devices at least once while they were teaching their teens to drive. Teens surveyed put the number higher: 61% said their parents were distracted while helping them learn to drive.

"It is alarming," says Chris Mullen, State Farm's director of technology research. "There is a need to remind parents that they are the role models. Whether it's deliberate or not, we're showing these teens what's acceptable in the car."

Marcie Taphorn, 35, of Greenfield, Ind., says she sometimes uses her cellphone while teaching her daughter, Hannah, 17, to drive. Taphorn says she feels comfortable doing so because they live in a rural area with sparse traffic, she uses a hands-free phone and she talks only when her younger children call from home.

The rules are different for Hannah. "She's not allowed to use it while driving," Taphorn says. "I want her to keep it in her purse."

The survey also revealed that many parents use their electronic devices more often than they think while Junior is in the car: 54% of teens said they had seen their parents use a cellphone while driving "sometimes, often or all the time"; 43% of parents admitted using the phone that often with a teen in the vehicle.

Parents stowing the cellphone while driving "is not just common sense safe behavior, it's a life-long lesson for the children in the backseat," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says.

The survey results come during National Teen Driver Safety Week, the third week of October since 2007. This year's focus: Helping parents teach teens to drive. Other teen driving developments:

•About 230 traffic-safety leaders, including 100 youths from around the nation, have gathered in Arlington, Va., this week for the National Organizations for Youth Safety's teen distracted-driving summit.

•A study from AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that teen drivers are about 50% more likely to crash during the first month of driving alone than after a full year of driving on their own.