While much attention is paid to teens and their propensity to engage in distracted driving, it seems adults -- specifically parents with young children -- are just as guilty of the risky behavior, according to a new study from the University of Michigan.
Researchers surveyed more than 600 parents while their children were being treated at one of two Michigan emergency rooms (the reason they were there did not necessarily have to do with a car accident). They were asked how often they engaged in distracted driving behaviors while their child was in the car over the past month. These behaviors included 10 activities such as talking on the phone (hands-free or handheld), texting/surfing the Internet, self-care (grooming, eating), child care (picking up a toy, feeding their child, etc.), getting directions (using a navigation system, map) and changing a CD or DVD.
The parents also were surveyed on whether they typically use a seatbelt, what type of restraint their child uses and their motivation to use the recommended restraint for their child's size.
The results showed that almost 90% of those surveyed admitted to at least one technology-based distracted driving action over the past month and most parents reported engaging in four of the 10 distractions that were asked about.
Other findings from the study included:
- Drivers of children who were not restrained in an age-appropriate restraint based on Michigan law had 2.5 times higher odds of reporting a child-related distraction than drivers of children who were properly restrained.
- Parents who reported always wearing a seat belt were much more likely to use an age-appropriate restraint for their child.
- Parents of minority race/ethnicity were much less likely to use the age-appropriate restraint compared with white parents, even after controlling for education, income, child age, motivation to use a safety seat and personal seat belt use.
Most importantly and most concerning, though, the results showed that the parents who reported engaging in distracting behaviors were more likely to report having ever been in a crash.
"Our research has identified some high-impact areas to improve child passenger safety," said Dr. Michelle L. Macy, lead author of the study. "Distracted driving while children are in the car is common, and many children are not using the right safety seat for their size."
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