KIDS
July 17, 2018

Parents, Cars and Cell Phones

Parents who use their cell phones while driving their kids around are not only endangering lives, they are setting a bad example.

Parents spend a good part of their lives running errands, from grocery shopping to ferrying kids from school to sports to friends' houses. That's a lot of time in the car. So who can blame them for sneaking a peek at their cell phones as they go from one place to another?

Wait a minute. That's dangerous. It's also, unfortunately, all-too-common. Researchers from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing asked parents about their cell phone use while driving. About half said they'd used their phone when children between the ages of 4 and 10 were in the car. Roughly one in three read text messages and one in seven used social media.

A third of the parents reported reading texts and 26 percent sent text messages while driving with children. Almost 14 percent reported using social media.

Parents who used their cell phones while children were in the car also tended to engage in other risky driving behaviors whether or not children were present in the car, such as not wearing a seat belt and driving under the influence of alcohol.

Over 750 adults from 47 U.S. states responded to the online survey. Respondents had to be at least 18 years old, a parent or caregiver of a child between the ages of 4 and 10, and have driven with a child at least six times in the preceding three months. More than 52 percent of the parents reported they had used a hands-free phone while driving with a young child in the car and 47 percent had used a hand-held phone. A third of the parents said they read texts, 26 percent sent text messages and almost 14 percent used social media during the car ride.

Parents who routinely used their phones while driving children were more likely not to secure their children in age-appropriate child restraint systems. They were also more likely to drive without wearing a seatbelt themselves and to drive under the influence of alcohol.

“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,” said lead author, Catherine McDonald, a Senior Fellow with CHOP's Center for Injury Research and Prevention and an Assistant Professor of Nursing in the Family and Community Health Department at Penn Nursing.

Your cell phone use while in the car will become the model set for your children when they are old enough to drive. If you need to read a text or take a call and can't do it hands-free, pull off the road. You will be teaching your children a safe driving practice they will be more likely to use when they get behind the wheel.

The study is published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

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