University of Michigan study: Many parents multi-task while driving with kids

Published On: May 06 2013 08:18:21 AM EDT
WASHINGTON -

Many parents are putting their precious cargo at risk while driving, according to results from a new study out of the University of Michigan.

Researchers from UM surveyed more than 600 parents to find out what distractions they face while driving with their children, whether they use age-appropriate child restraints and if they had ever been in a motor vehicle accident.

"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," said lead author Michelle L. Macy, MD, MS, FAAP, clinical lecturer in the Departments of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics at University of Michigan and C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

Parents were surveyed while their children were being treated at one of two Michigan emergency rooms for any reason. Participants were asked how often they engaged in distracting behaviors while driving with their child over the last month. These behaviors included 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), getting directions (navigation system, map) and changing a CD or DVD.

Parents also were asked whether they use a seatbelt, what type of restraint their child uses and their motivation to use the recommended restraint for their child's size. Demographic information, including race, education and income, also was collected.

Responses to questions on distracted driving showed the following:

"Our research has identified some high-impact areas to improve child passenger safety," Dr. Macy said. "Distracted driving while children are in the car is common, and many children are not using the right safety seat for their size."

Other findings showed:

"It is concerning that, in our study population, race is playing such a prominent role in the use of car seats. The underlying reasons are not fully explained by differences in education or income," Dr. Macy said. "The impact of parental motivation to use car seats also needs to be better understood."

To view a breakdown of the research, click here.