Half of parents use mobile phones while driving with their young children in the car, troubling new research has revealed.
According to the study, one in three parents will read text messages, and one in seven will check their social networks from behind the wheel.
Drivers who check their smartphones while driving are more likely to take other risks in the car – such as not wear a seat-belt, or drive under the influence of alcohol.
More than one in four road traffic accidents are caused by distracted driving, previous research has found.
A new study by researchers from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) found that in the previous three months, around half of parents talked on a cell phone while driving.
This was when their children – aged between four and ten – were in the car.
Causes of distracted driving by parents and caregivers include talking on hand-held or hands-free mobile phones, as well as using phones to text, email, or access the Internet.
‘Technology has become increasingly intertwined with our daily lives,’ said lead author Catherine McDonald, an Assistant Professor of Nursing in the Family and Community Health Department at Penn Nursing.
‘The results from this research reinforce that risky driving behaviors rarely occur in isolation, and lay the groundwork for interventions and education specifically aimed at parents who drive with young children in their cars.’
The study was conducted using an online sample of 760 adults from 47 US states.
The respondents had to be at least 18 years old and either a parent or routine caregiver of a child aged between four and 10.
In the preceding three months, 52.2 per cent of respondents had talked on a hands-free phone while driving with a young child in the car.
Forty-seven per cent had taken a call while holding the mobile phone.
The study also found that 33.7 per cent of parents read text messages, while 26.7 per cent sent text messages while driving with children in the car.
Social media also contributed to distracted driving, with 13.7 per cent of respondents reporting using social media while driving with children.
‘When clinicians are discussing child passenger safety with families, they can use the opportunity to ask and educate about parental driving behaviors such as seat belt use and cell phone use while driving,’ Dr McDonald said.
‘This type of education is especially pivotal today, as in-vehicle technology is rapidly changing and there is increased – and seemingly constant – reliability on cell phones.
‘However, it is also important to note that even parents who did not engage in risky behaviors, such as not wearing a seat belt as a driver or driving under the influence of alcohol, still used their cell phones while driving.’
Dr McDonald said future studies are needed to understand whether unsafe distracted driving by parents influences their children as they grow-up to become young drivers.