Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving with children in the car is a major problem plaguing our highways.

Think teenagers behind the wheel are the problem that is plaguing our highways in America?  Think again.  Fox Law investigates the deadly epidemic of distracted driving with children in the car.

Anyone who thinks the national distracted driving epidemic is all about texting teens needs to take a closer look at what’s going on in the minivan driving behind them. Nearly three quarters of us say we’re more flustered in our daily lives since having kids, and two thirds of moms find it tough to concentrate on a single task. That lack of focus carries over to the driver’s seat.

“It’s become part of our culture to not just drive, but to drive and do 20 other things,” says Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. Now while we’re checking email and applying lip gloss, we’ve got an adorable-but-needy baby in the back seat.”

In fact, 98 percent of parents driving with a child report being preoccupied for nearly a third of the time they’re on the road, Australian research shows. The result of this is not good.  On average, distracted driving causes 8,000 car accidents a day, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates.

Each weekday, Elisabeth LaMouria places her three children, all under five years old, into car seats and then drives her husband to work. She says the drive can be very chaotic.

“The youngest one hates the car, so we play the music really loud, and everyone drums on the ceiling. If he still cries, I reach back and rub his foot. I’m grateful that we’ve never been in a crash,” says the Orlando mom, admitting that she’s has tried to look around for dropped toys while driving, offered bottles, and even changed a DVD while she was driving.

It’s no wonder that public-safety experts are calling these interruptions a deadly epidemic. Distracted driving is thought to be the cause 80% of all car accidents, says Kate Hollcraft, a spokesperson for Allstate Insurance. And adults are the biggest threat, reports the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Let’s look at texting, one of the most common causes of distracted driving.  About 27% of adults admit they have texted while distracted driving, compared with 26% of teens.

Inattentive drivers have caused more than 27,000 deaths since 2009, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Their multitasking led to 448,000 injuries in 2009 alone. And while the federal agency doesn’t keep statistics on how many of those drivers had small children on board, experts say that the in-car chaos that kids can cause, as well as the increasing time pressures on working parents and widespread use of mobile devices, put even the most safety-conscious families at risk.

Surveys found that a crying child in the back of the car is as distracting to the driver as talking on a cell phone.  Nearly 95% of parents admitted a baby or child having a tantrum took their attention off the road.  More than two-thirds regarded it as dangerous as chatting on the phone while behind the wheel.  The survey, in which 2,000 parents were questioned, also found many ignored safety guidelines by failing to fit a suitable child seat in the family car.  8% of parents said they had caused an accident because their child had been crying. Over a third said they would ‘keep going’ rather than pull over and comfort a child.

To add to the problem of distracted driving and risk on the road with children, adults with children in the household are 14% more likely to drive drowsy than those without children.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.

Just like most things in life, children tend to imitate their parents.  If parents display dangerous and distracted driving habits, it is very likely the children will grow up to be inattentive drivers themselves.  Studied show children are concerned about their parents and want their parents to drive more safely.  A new survey of South African households has revealed that 96% of children wish their parents would drive more safely.

Santam spokesman Donald Kau said: “This survey is about putting a mirror up and showing people how we put our loved ones at risk every day.  We are hoping, through education, to show people how the smallest changes in thinking can make us safer.”

Researchers interviewed 1000 children aged seven to 12. The goal was to learn about how children learned about road, home and personal safety.

“I worry in case an accident happens.”

“It makes me upset, because it is against the law,” one Cape Town nine-year-old said.

The survey asked about a number of safety rules including using a cellphone, drinking, and applying make-up while distracted driving.  One of the main findings was that parents were very good at telling their children what the rules were, but they were not so great at taking their own advice. 60% of children surveyed thought their parents did not follow the rules they taught.  Even if children know what good driving should look like, as they get older they default into the bad habits they observe in their parents.

The psychologist who worked on the study, Anel Annandale stated “If we want our children to follow the safety rules, we have to make sure that we walk the walk as well as talk the talk.”

If you are a parent who has displayed distracted driving patterns, a step towards driving more safely could very well be to imitate your own parents.  Distracted Driving studies have found that Children are safer being driven by their grandparents than by their mothers and fathers.  US researchers discovered that children’s risk of injury was 50% lower when riding with grandparents.  They found that in many cases grandparents drove more cautiously to protect their “precious cargo”.  Previous studies had focused on the number of car accidents involving older drivers, mostly over 65.    A recent report by scientists at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia compared the number of injuries. The study in the Journal of Pediatrics analyzed insurance claims for car crashes in 15 US states over a four-year period involving 12 000 children under 15.  Only about 10 percent were driven by grandparents, but they suffered fewer injuries. Overall, 1.05 percent of children were injured when riding with parents, versus 0.70 riding with grandparents – a 33 percent lower risk.


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