A new study shows that about half of all parents in the United States use their cell phone while driving with their children in the car. According to a report on Newsweek.com, the study was published in The Journal of Pediatrics and used an online survey completed by 760 parents and caregivers in the U.S. across 47 states. It also found that one in three parents had read text messages while driving with a child between 4 and 10 years old in the past three months, and one in seven had checked social media.
In addition, the study disturbingly found that parents who used their cell phones while driving with children were more likely to engage in other risky behaviors with or without a child present, such as not wearing a seatbelt or drinking while driving. This study was the result of collaboration between researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing, and it comes at a time when experts are referring to distracted driving as a public health crisis.
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
The perils of driving while distracted have been much discussed and written about. But, statistics also show that distracted driving may be affecting children. In 2015, the number of fatal car accidents involving children 14 or younger increased by 5 percent. Talking on hand-held cell phones, texting, phoning or using the Internet are among the main causes of distracted driving by parents and caregivers, research in the past has found.
A 2016 study by Britain’s University of Sussex found that using a hands-free device while driving was as distracting as using hand-held technology. One disturbing trend the most recent study found was that even parents who did not normally engage in other risky behaviors such as driving without a seatbelt or drinking and driving used their cell phones while driving.
Steps to Prevent Distracted Driving
If you are a parent or caregiver, here are a few tips to help prevent distracted driving and put your child’s safety first:
- Do not be afraid to turn off your cell phone while driving. What’s even better is if you can put away your phone in the trunk or some place where you will not be tempted to reach for it when you are driving.
- Don’t look at your phone even when you are stopped at a traffic light, or when you are driving in slow traffic. Your attention should still be on the road.
- Use voice commands and Bluetooth sparingly. While they are great technologies, hands-free texting and talking can still be pretty distracting. While your hands may still be on the wheel, your mind is drawn away from the act of driving. Use them only when you absolutely need to do so.
- Use your Smartphone to drive safer. There are plenty of apps these days that can disable texting, send an automated text response and hold calls while you are driving. So, feel free to explore your safety settings and app store to maximize your phone’s safety capabilities.