Survey: Parents are maybe not great role models when it comes to texting and driving

A new survey by EverQuote, a venture-backed online insurance marketplace, has some good news for parents, and some bad.

The good news: in a just-published study commissioned by EverQuote and carried out by the survey platform Pollfish, 55 percent of 1,200 teen respondents surveyed across the web readily admit that cell phones are the biggest driving distraction they face, compared with 73 percent of the 1,500 parents who were surveyed.

The bad: 24 percent of the parents admitted to knowingly texting or calling their teenager while he or she is driving and worse, they may underestimate how frequently they do this. At least, when asked whether their parents call or text them while they’re behind the wheel,  44 percent of teens said their parents do.

Parents also seem to deluding themselves regarding their own driving-while-texting abilities. While 63 percent of respondents admitted to using a phone while driving, 62 percent also said they thought their driving habits set a good example for the kids.

The data is a selling point for EverQuote, whose EverDrive app uses a phone’s sensor to create a score of how safe a driver is based on the speed limit where that person are driving, how fast he or she is moving, and whether he or she is using the phone while traveling at driving speed.

The company’s chief science officer, Jonathan Shapiro, says EverQuote never releases its customers’ information to third parties without their consent, but the 200-person, Cambridge, Ma.-based company does hope to become a de facto FICO score for safe driving over time. (Get a good score, and pay less for your insurance, is the idea.)

The report is not the first of its kind for EverQuote, which earlier this year released a 2017 Safe Driving Report, highlighting how drivers in each U.S. state and region stack up on risky driving behaviors, including phone use, speeding, hard acceleration, braking and cornering. (New Englanders, the report might interest you particularly.)

One last interesting disconnect in its newest survey: only 21 percent of the teens surveyed believe distracted driving is worse than driving drunk. Many more parents — 74 percent of them — say they worry more about their teens using their phones while driving versus driving while drunk.

On this point, the teens may have it right that drunk driving is more dangerous — for now.

In 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured, in motor vehicle crashes involving “distracted drivers,” say the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. Meanwhile, 10,265 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2015, accounting for nearly one-third of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.

Unfortunately, those “distracted” numbers look to grow worse, the head of the NHTSA told the New York Times late last year, after highway deaths jumped 10.4 percent in the first six months of the year, to 17,775, from the comparable period of 2015.  Distracted driving is a “crisis that needs to be addressed now,” the agency head, Mark Rosekind, said at the time.