Driving with kids in the car 12 times more distracting than a cell phone

Thursday, May 23, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: driving, children, distraction

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(NaturalNews) Your local police department could soon be adding to its revenue stream with the implementation of so-called "distracted driving" laws, which would fine drivers for talking on their cell phones, texting, and engaging in other activities that steal their attention from the road. And a new investigation by CBS2 News in Chicago takes aim at parents with children, having found that driving with kids in the car is roughly 12 times more distracting than talking on a cell phone.

To see which scenarios are the most distracting to drivers, CBS2 reporters installed cameras in the vehicles of drivers with varying life situations. Some of the participating drivers had no children, for instance, but spent a lot of time talking on their mobile phones while driving. Others had multiple children who caused varying levels of commotion inside the car while in motion. Researchers paid close attention to the amount of time each of the drivers had his or her eyes off the road during an average trip, and compared distraction levels among all participants.

What they found was that, among all the drivers, a mother of three children, all under the age of three, was the most distracted. According to CBS2, she continually looked back to check the position of her newborn child, for instance, or to tell the other kids to settle down. According to Charlie Klauer, a transportation researcher at Virginia Tech, this particular mother took her eyes off the road on several instances for a notably long period of time.

"Her 'eyes off road' time was at least 50 percent there for a good minute to two minutes, and that's really dangerous," Klauer is quoted as saying to CBS2. "You can talk, you can sing, you can do all those kinds of interactions with your kids while you're driving, but you need to keep your eyes on the forward roadway."

Young passengers eight times more distracting the adult passengers

Overall, drivers with children in the car were found to be distracted with their eyes completely off the road an astounding 21 percent of the time. This translates into roughly three minutes and 22 seconds of total distraction during a 16-minute car ride, which is 12 times longer than the average amount of distraction time for someone talking on a cell phone. Young children in the car are particularly dangerous, according to the survey, as they were found to be eight times more distracting than an adult passenger.

"In half a second, a child can run out into the middle of the roadway, or somebody else who's distracted can come into your lane of travel," says Mark Wodka, Deputy Police Chief for the Hinsdale Police Department near Chicago.

Wodka's village recently passed an ordinance permitting drivers to be fined for any reason involving a distraction, including having children in the car. The ordinance has been in effect since January, and at least 26 warnings have been issued thus far. But fines of $35 per incident are set to begin on July 1, according to reports, which means parents will need to take extra caution when driving to avoid getting ticketed.

"Lots of attention has been given to distracted teen drivers," says Michelle Macy, lead author of a recent study on the issue that was put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics. "However, our results indicate parents are frequently distracted while driving their 1-to-12-year-old children, and these distracted drivers were more likely to have been in a crash."

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