April is the National Distracted Driving Awareness month in the U.S. Perhaps we should encourage that here in Australia as well, because distracted drivers are dangerous and in the States responsible for over 3,300 deaths and over 400,000 injuries.
Young people are often blamed for much of the distracted driving behaviour, using their cell phones etc., but they have perhaps been targeted a little unfairly as it seems that we grown ups are just as bad.
Researchers from the University of Michigan have reported that parents are often distracted while driving their kids aged between one and 12 and these drivers are more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents. The findings come from questionnaires used in the emergency rooms at the local children's hospitals.
Distracted behaviours included talking on a cell phone either hands free or handheld, texting or surfing the internet, self care such as grooming and eating, child care such as picking up a toy, getting directions from a sat nav or map and changing a CD or DVD.
Below is a collation of their findings.
- Almost 90 percent of drivers reported engaging in at least one technology-based distraction while driving their child in the past month, and most drivers reported engaging in four of the 10 distractions asked about in the study.
- Drivers who reported engaging in distracting behaviours were more likely to report having ever been in a crash.
- Drivers of children who were not restrained in an age-appropriate restraint based on Michigan law (car seat for children ages 1-3, car seat or booster seat for those 4-7 years old, booster seat or seat belt for 8- to 12-year-olds) had 2.5 times higher odds of reporting a child-related distraction than drivers of children who were restrained in accordance with Michigan law.
The researchers were concerned that distracted driving with children is common and that many children were not using the right safety seat for their size.
One wonders what the findings would be for Australian drivers with children. Possibly little different. So what can be done to highlight the potential dangers of distracted driving?Texting while driving is well known to be a complete no-no because of the increased risk of having a motor vehicle crash. But the information is not being heeded. Over 43% of teenagers admit to texting regularly while driving. Is this because they are simply of the belief that "it won't happen to me?" Threats of demerit point and fines appear to have little if any impact.
Perhaps we will ultimately have to resort to technology that will be able to detect distracted driving behaviour and immobilise our cars. Whatever the solution turns out to be, it will hopefully come sooner rather than later for all our sakes.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2013, May 6). Many parents multi-task while driving kids. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 7, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2013/05