Parents the most dangerous distracted drivers

When asked to think of the typical distracted driver, most people would likely conjure an image of a teenager with a cell phone, texting his friends on his way to a party. While some teenagers may engage in dangerous behavior while behind the wheel, recent research shows that they are not the only ones. In fact, a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan indicates that parents are some of the most frequently distracted drivers in the U.S.

Researchers polled just over 600 drivers who routinely travel in their cars with children between the ages of one and 12. Approximately 90 percent of the parents polled admitted that they had been affected by at least one technology based distraction during the period of the study. The research was conducted while children were being treated for a variety of ailments at the University of Michigan emergency rooms between October 2011 and May 2012.

The poll was not limited to questions about technology based distractions. Researchers also discovered that:

  • Approximately 75 percent of parents polled admitted to talking on their cell phones while driving, with or without a hands-free device
  • About 70 percent of those asked said that they had reached to pick up an item or had otherwise done something to accommodate a child's request while behind the wheel
  • Around 70 percent admitted that they ate or groomed themselves while driving
  • Around 50 percent said that they manipulated stereos, navigation systems or other electronic devices while driving
  • About 15 percent reported that they had texted or sent emails while driving

Overall, parents who used talked on their cell phones while driving were about two and a half times more likely to be involved in a car accident than parents who did not. The other distractions examined in the poll were likely to increase a driver's chances of crashing by anywhere from 40 to 70 percent, respectively.

As most parents probably know, distraction can be common while driving with children. Children, of course, do not understand the attention required to safely navigate a vehicle through traffic and they can make it difficult for adults to stay focused. Unfortunately, no matter what the cause, be it electronic device or conversation with another passenger, distraction while behind the wheel can be deadly. It is essential to everyone's safety that drivers everywhere take steps to reduce distraction and keep their attention on the road.