The UK’s Institute of Advanced Motorists says that the bad driving habits of parents can rub off onto their children and negatively impact the way they drive.

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IAM chief examiner, Peter Rodger, said the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mentality of some parents to their child passengers was a highly ineffective teaching method.

“Children learn from the behaviour of their parents. If you never wear a seat belt, it is seen as acceptable by your child, even if you insist they wear one as they’re growing up.

“If children grow up watching their Mum or Dad talk, text and email on their mobiles while driving, they’re going to think it's okay to do the same thing.”

Rodger said that children instinctively try to copy their parents’ actions and setting a bad example to young passengers could instil lifelong habits.

“Young children are constantly seeking to emulate the behaviour of their parents.

“Doing 40 in a 30 zone, using abusive language towards other drivers and getting too close to the car in front are all bad habits children can pick up from parents or other family members at an early age, and can stay with them for life.”

He said many bad habits had to do with inexperience and laziness, but insisted that the consequences of complacency on the road could be severe.

“For young adults a lack of driver training and a blasé attitude to safety inherited from their parents could combine to make a particularly lethal combination.“This particular group are the most vulnerable, with almost 20,000 casualties in cars being 16 to 19 year olds in 2008.”

In Australia, 17-25-year-olds accounted for 26.2 per cent of all driver fatalities and 32 per cent of passenger fatalities in 2008.

Almost three-quarters of all driver fatalities were males, while 56.6 per cent of passenger deaths and 69.4 per cent of pedestrian deaths were also males.

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Rodger highlighted pedestrian safety as an important area for parents to demonstrate good habits to their children.

“If you consistently cross under a red man, or cross without looking, there is a strong chance your child will do the same.”

The IAM is the UK’s largest independent road safety charity, and it’s commercial division is best known for its advanced driving courses and tests.

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A 2006 report by Brunel University following an 18 month study concluded that “advanced driver training produces safer drivers and lower accident involvement”, with measurable improvements in knowledge, skills and attitude.

by Tim Beissmann