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Parents and Distracted Driving: More Likely Than We Might Think

As parents, we take all kinds of precautions to help keep our children safe and reduce their exposure to unnecessary risks. But what happens after we buckle our kids into the back seats of our cars and head out onto the road?

A recent study from the University of Michigan has found that, even when they have their children in their cars, parents are still likely to not only use a cellphone while driving, but also engage in other forms of distracted driving. In interviews with parents of children who were treated in two hospital emergency rooms in Michigan, researchers discovered 90 percent of the parents admitted to some form of distracted driving while they had their kids in the car.

More importantly, while about two-thirds of the participants admitted to cellphone use while driving, in line with other studies on cellphone use while driving in general, even more participants admitted to child-related distractions, such as giving food to their children while driving. Higher rates of child-related distractions were also connected with the age of the child, with more child-related distractions reported among parents of children between the ages of two and eight than among parents of one-year-olds.

According to lead researcher Michelle L. Macy, the study results highlight the need to also consider other sources of distraction when it comes to parents driving with children in their vehicles. As with cellphone use and texting, distractions like giving food to a child and picking up a toy from the floor of the car necessitates not just taking your hands off the wheel, but also taking your eyes off the road.

Reducing distractions can help reduce the number of distraction-related crashes. While driving with their children in their cars, parents should remember that anything that results in their taking their eyes off the road is a form of distracted driving.