Talk about distracted driving these days and you will most likely mention mobile phone use, texting, emailing – often even the radio as the major forms of distraction. But if you are the parent of a young child, you may be surprised with the following information.
Recently, researchers at Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) in Australia in a first-of-its-kind study, found children are 12 times more distracting to a driver than talking on a mobile phone while at the wheel.
The MUARC researchers, found the average parent takes their eyes off the road for three minutes and 22 seconds during a 16-minute trip. The families in the study had an average of two children, between 1-8 years of age and researchers analyzed ninety-two trips looking for any potentially distracting behaviours by the driver. This included all activities that distracted the driver or competed for their attention while driving – including looking away from the forward roadway for more than two seconds while the vehicle was in motion.
The most frequent types of distractions included turning to look at the child in the rear seat or watching the rear-view mirror (76.4 per cent), engaging in conversation with the child (16 per cent), assisting the child (7 per cent) and playing with the child (1 per cent).
No matter how you look at this, the statistics show we should be concerned. This does not, to be clear, condone the use of any mobile device while driving.
One area that may assist in reducing driver distraction is the correct restraint of children in their car seats. These same researchers found children were in the incorrect position for over 70 per cent of the journey time. So if a child is not comfortable, they are themselves, distracted.
As a parent, comfort aside, there are other measures you may employ to assist in reducing child distractions.
1) Plan ahead. Especially on long drives, kids will get hungry, thirsty, bored – or all of the above. Plan to have snacks and drinks in a spot that is easily accessible and in containers that don't require your help.
2) Pull over. Would you rather listen to a child throw a car-seat-fit for 20 minutes when signalling? Pulling over and addressing the issue is the solution.
3) Wait. Avoid reaching into the back seat while driving. If necessary, consider the “pull over”.