Teenage drivers are not following laws that restrict them from driving during overnight hours, using cell phones and limiting the number of passengers they can have as well as their parents think they are.
That was the finding of a study released this week by State Farm Insurance which found that parents of teen drivers greatly over estimated how often their young drivers are obeying the law.
Most states, including Minnesota, have Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs. Each state sets its own rules, but they generally require teens to pass through three phases before earning full driving privileges and place limits on what they can do while behind the wheel.
The programs dramatically reduce the rate of fatal vehicle crashes involving teens, according to three studies funded by the National Institutes of Health.
According to the study, nearly 70 percent of parents said their teen driver always follows the rules that prohibit them from driving between midnight and 5 a.m. except in special circumstances. But less than half of the teens surveyed said they obey the law.
Almost as many parents said they believe their teen driver adheres to laws that restrict the number of passengers they may have in the vehicle. Yet, only 43 percent of teen said they abide.
The one area in which parents' belief and teens' behavior were closest had to do with cell phone use and texting. Eighty-two percent of parents said their teen driver stayed off the phone while behind the wheel, while 72 percent of teens said they did.
Parents listed peer pressure as the reason teens disobeyed laws regarding driver's licenses while teens said they did not believe the police would catch them.
Overall, 87 percent of parents said their kids obeyed licensing requirements because mom and dad were watching, but only 56 percent of teen drivers said that was true.
When it comes to night driving, two-thirds of parents said they keep a close watch on that, but only 32 percent of teens said that actually happens. When it comes to limits on the number of passengers allowed in the car, 65 percent of parents said they enforce that law but only 27 percent of teens said their parents did so.
"GDL laws are effective tools in reducing the crash risk of new drivers," said Chris Mullen, director of technology research for State Farm. "It is concerning to see a majority of teens admit not adhering to these laws, but perhaps more concerning to learn some parents may be unaware of their teen's behaviors."
State Farm is hosting National Teen Driver Safety Week Oct. 18-26 to encourage and promote safe driving among teens and bring attention to GDLs.