Back seat learners – parents pass on lessons of aggressive driving, law-breaking and drink driving

Research from AXA provides evidence that the behaviour of today’s young drivers, often condemned as the scourge of Britain’s roads and responsible for one in four driver deaths on the road, can at least in part be blamed on the way their parents behave behind the wheel.

15 September 2011

Posted in Product

by Daniel O’Byrne (see media contact)

The study of young driver behavior revealed:

  • 18-30 year olds are three times as likely to have points on their licence or a complete ban if their parents also have points on their licence or a ban
  • young drivers who witness their parents drink driving are seven times as likely to go on to drink drive themselves, compared with those who have no memory of their parents drink driving. A shocking 28% of those with parents who drink drive do so themselves.
  • young drivers who consider their parents to be aggressive drivers are themselves much more likely to commit aggressive behaviours on the road: they are around 50% more likely to swear, flash or beep aggressively at other drivers,
  • parents are considered by 18-30 year olds to be the most important 'role models' behind the wheel (followed by driving instructors)


Of particular concern to AXA car insurance is that while there is a clear correlation between how parents drive and how their children drive, the behaviour is exaggerated in the 18-30 year olds with larger percentages speeding and generally acting aggressively relative to their parents.

The research looked at a range of behaviours on the road and while speeding is a common problem among all young drivers with little obvious parental influence, those with parents who are aggressive road-users are significantly more likely to swear or make offensive hand gestures at other drivers, cut up or tailgate fellow motorists, jump red lights or ignore zebra crossings and race against other drivers.

Young drivers cited speeding as the most common 'fault' of their parents' driving followed by swearing at other drivers and flashing/beeping aggressively. These were directly reflected as the three most common areas of 'bad' driving carried out by young drivers.

Robin Reames, chief claims officer at AXA car insurance says: "It may seem obvious but I think some parents would be shocked to see just how much of an influence their driving has on their children's driving.

"And the danger is that those habits and behaviours, while never acceptable, can prove more dangerous among young and inexperienced drivers. I'm sure most parents would hate to think that the lessons they are teaching their children while they sit in the back of the car could end up in behaviour on the road that leads to a tragic road accident."

*Research carried out among 2000 18 -30 year old drivers by Onepoll in July 2011
**Department of Transport: Reported Road Casualtied Great Britain 2009