ANN ARBOR (WWJ) – New research from the University of Michigan finds that many parents multitask with their kids in the car.
Dr. Michelle Macy, lead author of the report, said children of “distracted driving parents” are at greater risk of being in an accident than kids whose parents pay full attention at the wheel.
Ninety percent of parents surveyed admitted that they often take their eyes off the road — saying they had least one technology-related distraction the past month while driving their kids.
“Using a handheld cell phone was one of the most common things that parents reported they were doing,” Macy told WWJ Newsradio 950.
Other distractions parents admitted to were eating, feeding a child, fixing their hair or makeup and picking up dropped toys or other items from the car floor.
The researchers surveyed more than 600 parents whose children were treated at two emergency departments in Michigan for any reason. The children were ages 1 to 12.
Macy, a mother of two, said she knows how difficult it can be.
“My research is resonating with me as a parent, and it’s definitely making me think about what I’m doing when I’m driving as well,” Macy said.
About half of parents said they had driven while trying to find directions, by using a map or a GPS device while driving. Texting was the least common distraction, with just a little over 10 percent of parents reporting texting while driving their children in the past month.
Parents were also asked what type of safety restraints they used for their children, and researchers considered whether the safety restraint was appropriate for the children’s age (for instance, whether they used a car seat for children under age 3, or seat belts for those ages 8 to 12).
Parents who did not use the appropriate type of safety restraint were more likely to report driving while distracted than those who used the appropriate safety restraints for their children.
Metro Detroit mom Cindy Kokolme might be an exception to the rule. She told WWJ’s Ron Dewey, unless she has her earpiece in, she doesn’t touch her cellphone while she’s behind the wheel.
She said she pays attention, and doesn’t even think about texting while driving.
“It’s not hard for me,” Kokolme said. “You know, I’m older than I look, so texting is not important to me.”
The study will be presented Monday at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Washington, DC.