Child-Related Driving Distractions More Dangerous Than Cell Phones: Report

The issue of distracted driving has received a great deal of attention in recent years – and for good reason. cartoys3.jpg

Drivers enveloped in sending and receiving text messages, phone calls, e-mails and social media status updates are a major liability, not only to themselves but others who share the road with them.

But a type of distraction that is perhaps less discussed is that involving children. According to Australian researchers AAA, children are 12 times more dangerous as a distraction than drivers talking on their cell phones.

On average, researchers found that in the span of a 16-minute car ride, drivers with children present looked away from the road for a total of 3 minutes and 22 seconds. That accounts for an astonishing 21 percent of their overall drive time.

Younger children, researchers learned, tend to be an even greater distraction, with the average baby being eight times more distracting than the average adult.

Examples of this type of distracted driving car accident abound in case law.

Consider last year the case of State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. DeCarlo, heard by the Supreme Court in Queens County, New York.

The case involved a four-car, chain reaction crash in the eastbound lanes of the Staten Island Expressway in New York. Four vehicles sat stopped at an intersection when a fifth vehicle approached from behind, driven by a mother of several children. She was traveling approximately 30 to 40 miles-per-hour when she turned around to look toward the back seat of her vehicle because her children were fighting.

She would later tell an emergency worker that the time elapsed was only about 10 seconds. But by the time she turned back around to face the traffic in front of her, it was too late. She did not have time to avoid a collision. As she slammed into the back of a vehicle in front of her, it set of a chain reaction of four other crashes.

All other drivers were later successful in being released from liability for the rear-end collisions, as they had been stopped at the time of the wrecks. It was determined that the mother had been the sole proximate cause of the accident. All subsequent property damage and injury claims were later directed toward her and her insurance company.

In the Australian study, researchers analyzed 12 families of young children (under the age of 8) during the course of three weeks. Every single car journey was monitored. The average parents spent nearly a quarter of their journey distracted, researchers found.

Fathers were more likely to be distracted than mothers, and often for longer stretches of time. Mostly, the distractions included turning around to look at the child or watch them in the rear-view mirror, talking to the child, helping them in some way or even playing with them.

CBS2 Chicago recently conducted their own non-scientific experiment wherein the vehicles of young parents were affixed with video cameras, in order to ascertain how distracted these parents were.

What they found was that in one case, the mother of three young children reportedly had her eyes off the road an astonishing 50 percent of the time.

Another parent was seen continuing to drive on an expressway while he reached back to the rear-facing infant carrier in the backseat, where he was concerned his baby might have been chewing a shoe. A researcher with the National Safety Council, analyzing this footage, said this kind of action has the potential to be highly dangerous, and the driver should have first stopped the vehicle.

In other cases, the Chicago parents were seen handing back food, taking food wrappers, adjusting the mirror, adjusting the DVD player and reaching back to break up fights.

If you have been injured in a car accident, contact the Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. DeCarlo, Feb. 28, 2012, Supreme Court, Queens County, New York

Kids in the car are 12 times more distracting while driving than using your cell phone, May 11, 2013, Staff Report, The Daily Mail

More Blog Entries:
Slow Down to Avoid Fatal Carolina Traffic Accidents, Dec. 4, 2013, Asheville Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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