University of Michigan Study – 90% of Parents Drive Distracted With Children in the Car

May is Global Youth Traffic Safety Month, a month designated to bring awareness to the fact that traffic accidents are the number 1 killer of teens and to get teens involved in the solution. We at know that distracted driving is not just a teen issue. We ask teens, as part of our presentation, whether or not their parents drive distracted with them in the car. Invariably, whether it is Idaho, Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, or any other state, 90% of the hands go up. Capture

A study just released from the University of Michigan published in the journal Academic Pediatrics, found that 90 percent of parent drivers said they engaged in at least one of the 10 distractions examined in the study while their child was a passenger and the vehicle was moving, says lead author Michelle L. Macy, M.D., M.S., an emergency medicine physician at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. The study is based on responses of 570 parents of 1 to 12 year old children who arrived in the emergency departments of the two hospitals.

About two-thirds of the study respondents said that they have talked on cellular phones while driving their child, and 15 percent said that they have texted while driving their child.

Aside from the fact that parents are putting their children at risk through their distracted driving, what type of behavior behind the wheel are we modeling for our children? Studies show that teens who grow up in a household where mom and dad drive distracted are 2-4 times more likely to also drive distracted.  Children are learning to drive from the time that they are in car seats in their parent’s vehicle. They become accustomed to the fact that it is OK to use a cell phone while driving, as well as to eat, put on makeup, program the GPS or engage in any other type of distraction related activity that they watch mom or dad engage in.  It is no wonder that by the time they are teens and learning to drive, they are involved in 3 times as many fatal crashes, mile for mile driven, than the rest of the population. As inexperienced drivers, teens don’t have the same “luck” that mom or dad may have had behind the wheel.

We at address this issue in our presentation to teens and teach them to speak up for their safety and their driver’s safety when they are being driven by a driver who is distracted, whether it is their parent, friend, or anyone else.  Our Family Safe Driving Agreement is distributed to teens at our presentations and teens are encouraged (sometimes with gift certificates) to discuss the agreement and return it signed by both the teen and their parent.

We have also developed an adult presentation which has been seen by thousands across the country. Part of our presentation to adults includes our newest, 30-second PSA, “Parents, Be the Driver You Want Your Teen to Be”.  Parents, in particular,watch it here: