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Study: Children More Distracting to Drivers Than Cell Phones

From regulating the backseat bickering to glancing back to check on the strapped-in infant, parents are among the most distracted drivers on the road.

This is not especially surprising, particularly for those who are parents. However, the degree to which they are distracted is startling. A new study by Australian AAA researchers suggests parents are 12 times more distracted than drivers who talk on their cell phones!

Over a period of three weeks, the scientists monitored the car trips of 12 families via in-car cameras. On average, the families each had two children who were between the ages of 1 and 8.

In all, the researchers analyzed the habits of more than 90 trips and noted any time the driver looked away from the road for a stretch of longer than two seconds. A vehicle traveling at 40 miles per hour will move about 60 feet in a two-second time frame.

What the scientists found was that in an average 16-minute drive, the parents had torn their eyes from the road for a full 3 minutes and 22 seconds. That’s nearly 22 percent of the journey.

The video recording revealed that the parents spent 12 times as much time focusing on their children as they did talking on their cell phones. Fathers were reportedly more easily distracted than mothers, and they tended to be distracted for longer periods of time.

What’s especially troubling is that these parents, who clearly care for their children, are putting them at grave risk of suffering a car accident injury. In Port St. Lucie, there are more than 2,300 crashes annually. We know at least 200 or so are linked to the consumption of alcohol. But how many more are caused by well-meaning parents?

The most frequent kinds of distractions involved:
–Turning back to look at the children or watch them in the rear view mirror (76 percent);
–Engaging the child in some form of conversation (16 percent);
–Helping the child in some way, such as handing him or her food or drinks (7 percent);
—Playing with the child (1 percent).

Although one might think that having a front-seat passenger would shift the dynamic and cause the driver to be less distracted, it turned out that was not the case. Drivers still focused an equal amount of attention on the back seat.

Since the study was released in late November, it has been copied by a number of American media outlets. The results have been equally disturbing. For example, a mother of three in Chicago spent nearly half of her drive time looking to the back seat.

The dangers of distracted driving are well-known. We see it in the many ads and media awareness efforts regarding talking or texting while driving. What has been less obvious until now is just how much energy parent drivers are focusing on their children.

The researchers intend to conduct another larger study to gain further insight on the issue.

In the meantime, it’s suggested that parents:
–Make sure the child is properly belted in and has everything he or she needs before the car is put in drive;
–Pull over if one of your children requires immediate attention;
–Talk to your children before you get in the vehicle about the importance of your maintaining focus on the road.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Children in cars ‘more distracting than mobiles’, Nov. 27, 2013, By Jasper Copping, The Telegraph

More Blog Entries:
Broward Traffic Safety: What are Your Attitudes Behind the Wheel? Dec. 18, 2013, Port St. Lucie Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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