Driving with children can make a car accident more likely. Here’s what you need to know to keep you and your children safe.
As parents, we try to do everything we can to keep our children safe. But, the reality is that we all face risks on a day-to-day basis. Although we rarely think about it, one of the most dangerous things we do is drive. There are approximately 18,000 car accidents per day in the United States, and there is a risk that we will get in an accident each time we get behind the wheel.
Although car accidents can happen to anyone, The Association of Psychological Science reports those driving with children as passengers are more likely to be at fault in fatal crashes than people driving solo or with only adult passengers. This statistic alone can make a parent concerned enough to seek guidance on making the drive more safe.
Here are four ways parents can reduce the risk of being involved in a car accident with their children in the back seat.
1. Young Children Passengers Are More Distracting Than Adults
Distracted driving is among the most common causes of car accidents in the United States. While it used to be that younger drivers were the primary culprits, these younger drivers have grown up, and they now have kids.
Although when most people think of distracted driving they envision texting or eating, the distraction of a young child can be just as dangerous. Children may throw toys, ask for snacks, scream, open the window, and other actions that can cause a driver to take their eyes off the road.
TIP: We certainly can’t prevent every type of distraction a child may cause, but keeping them busy can help alleviate the pressure they may put on a driver. If they are distracted themselves, it is less likely they will try to distract the person driving. If you are on a road trip, bringing new toys your child has never seen before can help keep them busy longer. Consider putting a stash of items in the car like activity books, travel games, or a magnetic doodle board that they can pull from while on the go.
2. Parents May Frequently Run Late Due to Children’s Needs
Anyone with a small child (or multiple) will tell you that running late isn’t difficult to do as a parent. Between trying to remember all the things you’ll need for an outing to playing referee during a sibling argument, there are plenty of things that can happen before leaving the house. All of these obstacles increase your chances of being behind schedule.
Running late means you are more likely to speed to an appointment to ensure you reach your destination on time. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), speeding is a factor in approximately one-third of all fatal car accidents. A study conducted in Europe concluded that an increase in the average speed of just one kilometer per hour (0.62 miles per hour) increases the risk of accidents by 2% to 4%.
TIP: Addressing time management obstacles as a parent or curbing our tendency to speed can only be improved if we make a conscious effort to first recognize this as a habit. From there, we can utilize technology to hold ourselves accountable such as apps to monitor our speeding and driving habits. While there may not be technology to calm down a toddler during a tantrum, a scheduling app can make activity planning easier.
3. Working Parents Are in the Car More Often
Parents in general may be driving in the car multiple times a week, shuffling kids to and from school and extracurricular activities. Working parents especially can become stressed between their commute to work on top of transporting their kids each day. Spending long hours in the car means there are more chances to get into an accident. A survey taken by HopSkipDrive found that 44 percent of working parents spent five hours or more per week driving kids to and from school and activities. The survey even reported that some parents find transporting their children as more stressful than filing their taxes. Increased time in the car combined with high stress levels is not a good formula for accident prevention.
TIP: Consider implementing a carpooling schedule with other parents, friends or family members. Nextdoor and other neighborhood groups may help to connect with those participating in the same activities. Consider starting your own Facebook group once you have a schedule so everyone can coordinate and communicate easier.
4. Vehicular Heat Stroke is a Real Concern
According to noheatstroke.org, 906 children have died due to Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke since 1998 and these deaths could have been prevented. Accidentally leaving a child in the car may not be the typical car accident, but it is definitely a dangerous situation parents should avoid.
TIP: There are certain car models that now incorporate technology to alert you of a child in the vehicle. However, if you are not able to invest in one of these cars, there are plenty of other ways to set reminders. You can purchase specific car seats that have these alerts, download various apps on your phone or put something in the front seat, like a stuffed animal, to remind you that a child is still in the car.
Additional Statistics & Resources
We’ve listed relevant statistics and resources below for more information. These websites are included for educational purposes only.
- An Australian study by the Monash University Accident Research Centre reported a parent on average takes their eyes off the road for three minutes and 22 seconds during a 16-minute trip with a child in the car. Source: carsguide.com.au
- A child’s skull is less strong than that of an adult and more susceptible to injury during a car accident. This is because the bone-forming process is not complete until around 6 or 7 years old. Source: saferide4kids.com
- Distracted driving kills over 3,000 people a year. To aid in reducing this number, 47 states and the District of Columbia have a primary law banning text messaging and 24 states ban the use of a cell phone (for any reason) while driving. Source: moneygeek.com