Parents Multitask When Driving With Kids

It seems, based on the results of a recent study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, D.C., parents are just as guilty of driving distracted as teenagers with cellphones.

Researchers from the University of Michigan surveyed over 600 parents whose children were being treated at one of two Michigan emergency rooms. Treatment was not specifically for anything related to a driving accident.

Participants were asked how often they engaged in distracting behaviors while driving with their child over the last month. Activities included talking on the phone – hands-free or handheld – texting, surfing the Internet, grooming, eating, tending to a child by picking up a toy or feeding them, getting directions from a navigation system or map, and changing a CD or DVD. Parents also were asked whether they use a seatbelt, what type of restraint they used with their child, and their motivation to use the recommended restraint for their child’s size.

Of the 618 parents, 93 percent of them admitted to chatting on the phone, texting, fiddling with the GPS, or doing other things while driving with their children in the car.

Parents who admitted to distracted driving were more likely to have reported being in a car accident. Most of the parents said they engaged in four out of the ten activities. Chatting on the phone was the most common distraction, while texting was the least common.

Michelle Macy – lead author and a clinical lecturer in the Departments of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics at University of Michigan – said in a statement, “Lots of attention has been given to distracted teen drivers. However, our results indicate parents are frequently distracted while driving their 1- to 12-year-old children, and these distracted drivers were more likely to have been in a crash.”

Another report mentioned by CBS News, showed having kids in the car can be 12 times more distracting to drivers than using a cell phone. The younger the child, the greater the distraction they were to motorists. Infants were seen to be eight times for disruptive in comparison to adult passengers. Over a 16-minute car ride, drivers looked away from the road an average of three minutes and 22 seconds – 21 percent of the time.

Common interactions that draw a parent from keeping their eyes on the road include handing back food, taking food wrappers, changing the DVD player, or adjusting the mirror to glance back at what the kids are doing.

Experts say crashes and near-crashes happen when you least expect it, they recommend that before you start your journey you ensure that your kids are secure in their seats and have what they need so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road. Experts also urge that drivers pull over and stop the vehicle before engaging in activities other than driving – such as attending to kids in the car, taking a call, or responding a text.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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