Kids are safer driving with Grandma

The Pediatric Insider

© 2013 Roy Benaroch, MD
Parents may be surprised to learn that their children may be safer riding in grandma’s car than their own.

A July, 2011 study published in Pediatrics looked at insurance claims data from crashes that occurred with a child in the car. About 12,000 accidents from 2003-2007 were reviewed. Based on telephone follow-up calls, a child was injured in 1% of the crashes. The surprising result: children were about 50% less likely to be injured in an accident if a grandparent were driving rather than a parent. This dramatic reduction in risk occurred despite the fact that grandparents were actually less likely to have been using child restraint seats correctly.

Does this really mean that grandparents are safer drivers?

Maybe. The study shows that if an accident occurred, a child was less likely to be injured with a grandparent driver. That doesn’t actually mean that grandparents get in fewer accidents– it just means that their accidents are less likely to be serious. Also, the average age of grandparents in the study was 58 (versus 36 for parents.) I’m not so sure that these results would be the same if researchers only looked at elderly grandparents.

Still, a fifty percent reduction in injury risk is a big difference. There may be lessons that parents can learn from grandparents about improving safety behind the wheel.

Though recent guidelines have stressed proper car seat use, the most important safety equipment in the car is the driver. Driving carefully, obeying traffic laws, and paying attention are crucial ways to avoid a crash, or at least make it less likely for a crash to result in an injury. Younger drivers are probably more likely to be distracted by mobile phones, text messages, and fiddling with the radio. If your eyes and your mind aren’t on the road, you’re asking for trouble.

In the developed world, motor vehicle accidents are among the most common cause of serious injury and death in children. If you want to keep your kids safe, take a lesson from grandma. Drive carefully.

Adapted from a blog post I wrote for WebMD in 2011. Yes, I’m reusing “classic material.” And by classic, I mean old.

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