Kids in the car 12 times more distracting to drivers than using cell phones

There are plenty of things that can distract people, like talking on the cell phone, self grooming, eating and even drunkenness when behind the wheel, but perhaps the worst is coping with kids in the backseat of the car, finds an intriguing new study.

According to researchers at the Monash University Accident Research Centre children are 12 times more likely to side track a driver than talking on a cell phone.

When kids are in the car a lot of parents take their eyes off the road and turn to look at a tot in the rear seat or watching them in the rear-view mirror. They get distracted trying to break up fights between squabbling siblings and calming fussy babies while driving.The study found the “eyes off road” time of the average parent was a good three minutes and 22 seconds during a 16-minute trip.

Lead researcher, associate Professor Judith Charlton stated, “Previous research has shown that, compared with driving alone, dialling a mobile phone while driving is associated with 2.8 times the crash risk, and talking or listening while driving is associated with 1.3 times the crash risk. The costs of distracted driving are undeniable. One major and previously unrecognised distraction is kids in the backseat.”

Details of the study
In order to get some insight into whether driving with kids in the back seat is risky the researchers conducted a small study. They took video footage of 12 families with an average of two children, between 1-8 years of age in a large sedan equipped with discrete recording system to monitor their driving behavior.

Experts examined 92 trips for any possible distracting activities undertaken by the driver and found drivers were side tracked in 90 of the trips.

The study found common interactions that distracted parents from the forward roadway for more than two seconds while the vehicle was in motion included things like turning back to look at the child in the rear seat or adjusting the rear-view mirror to glance at what the kids are doing (76.4 per cent), engaging in conversation with the child (16 per cent), assisting the child (7 per cent) and playing with the child (1 per cent).