Potential distractions and unsafe driving behaviors among drivers of 1- to 12-year-old children

Acad Pediatr. 2014 May-Jun;14(3):279-86. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2014.02.010.


Objective: Driver distraction has been identified as a threat to individual drivers and public health. Motor vehicle collisions remain a leading cause of death for children, yet little is known about distractions among drivers of children. This study sought to characterize potential distractions among drivers of children.

Methods: A 2-site, cross-sectional, computerized survey of child passenger safety practices was conducted among adult drivers of 1- to 12-year-old children who presented for emergency care between October 2011 to May 2012. Drivers indicated the frequency with which they engaged in 10 potential distractions in the past month while driving with their child. Distractions were grouped in 4 categories: (1) nondriving, (2) cellular phone, (3) child, and (4) directions. Information about other unsafe driving behaviors and sociodemographic characteristics was collected.

Results: Nearly 90% of eligible parents participated. Analysis included 570 drivers (92.2%). Non-driving-related and cellular phone-related distractions were disclosed by >75% of participants. Fewer participants disclosed child (71.2%) and directions-related distractions (51.9%). Child age was associated with each distraction category. Cellular phone-related distractions were associated with the child riding daily in the family car, non-Hispanic white, and higher education. Parents admitting to drowsy driving and being pulled over for speeding had over 2 times higher odds of disclosing distractions from each category.

Conclusions: Distracted driving activities are common among drivers of child passengers and are associated with other unsafe driving behaviors. Child passenger safety may be improved by preventing crash events through the reduction or elimination of distractions among drivers of child passengers.

Keywords: accident prevention; child passenger safety; driving distractions; survey.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Automobile Driving / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cell Phone
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Parents*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult