This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 28, 2014.
Most parents are distracted drivers, and not because they have a baby on board or kids in tow, a recent study finds.
About two-thirds of parents surveyed admitted to talking on cell phones while driving a child, and 15 percent said they’ve texted with kids in the car. Nine out of 10 confessed to at least one distraction while driving youngsters in the past month.
The diversions ranged from eating, drinking or smoking to changing a CD or DVD and browsing the Web. Talking on a phone and texting were in there, too, as were reading maps or using a GPS, personal grooming, feeding a child, or picking up items from the car floor.
Researchers from the University of Michigan published the findings last month in the journal Academic Pediatrics. They surveyed 570 parents with children ages 1 to 12.
Parents with kids ages 2 to 8 were the most likely to report distractions related to feeding, comforting or entertaining them. Moms and dads who were white and parents who had higher levels of education were the most likely to admit cell phone or GPS-related distractions.
“If this finding is a result of greater access to technology among more highly educated and non-Hispanic white parents, we can expect the problem of technology-based distractions to expand because national rates of cell phone ownership in the U.S. have climbed above 90 percent,” the study’s lead author Dr. Michelle L. Macy said in a statement.
Macy said the study has serious implications. Distracted driving caused about 1 in 6 fatal U.S. vehicle collisions in 2008, and she suspects that rate has increased.