Distracted Driving and Personal Injuries from Auto Accidents

Posted by: on Sun, May 12, 2013

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Distracted Driving with Children

The subject of distracted driving has heavily focused on the dangers of texting while driving, particularly among teenagers. Now two new studies, one from North American and one from Australia, show that parents driving their kids are also guilty of being distracted at the wheel. The studies indicate that distracted-driver parents are more likely to have been in a car accident than parents who drive without distractions.

In the University of Michigan study, more than 600 parents revealed they often multitask while driving their 1 to 12 year old children. Almost 90 percent of the parents surveyed reported engaging in at least one technology-based distraction while driving their child in the past month. The most common distractions were from phone calls (hand-held and hands-free) and text messages being the least common.

The studies also show that these drivers were more likely to have been in a crash in their lifetime. The Michigan study revealed that drivers of children not riding in an age-appropriate car seat or booster seat were 2.5 times more likely to report a child-related distraction than drivers of children who were restrained in accordance with the law. Other kinds of distracting behaviors surveyed were surfing the Internet, self-care (grooming and eating), child care (picking up a toy, etc.), getting directions and changing a CD or DVD.

Incredibly, the studies show that more accidents are caused by distracted driving than by drunk driving. ABC News reported recently that there are 5 million auto accidents each year in the U.S. That equals 10 accidents per minute. The importance of focusing on driving is shown by the fact that 80% of these accidents nationwide are due to distracted driving. Children cause some 12% of all distracted driving behavior. Sadly, in 2010, over 172,000 children were killed or injured in car accidents from all causes.

People have been caught doing all sorts of things that distract them behind the wheel — from eating an ice cream cone to talking on a cell phone to driving drunk — but one of the worst distractions might be something parents do every day…driving with kids in the backseat of the car.

In a first-of-its-kind study, an Australian study found that children are 12 times more distracting to the driver than talking on a cell phone while at the wheel. According to their findings, the average parent takes their eyes off the road for a staggering three minutes and 22 seconds during a 16-minute trip. The Australian study estimated 50% of all accidents are caused by distracted driving.

When kids are in the car, parents are often breaking up fights between squabbling siblings and calming fussy babies. By the way, those babies are eight times more distracting to the driver than adult passengers, according to the American Automobile Association.

Charlie Klauer, a transportation engineer for Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute and a distracted-driving expert, along with her team analyze dangerous driving habits, what they call “eyes-off-the-road” moments. They agreed to evaluate the footage of ABC News’ Paula Faris driving with her children in the back seat.

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ABC News’ Paula Faris mounted cameras to her van to capture a typical Saturday morning of driving her two children around, and then had distracted driving experts analyzed her habits behind the wheel.

In one instance, Klauer pointed out that Paula was driving 55 to 60 miles per hour on the highway and her “eyes-off-the-road” time to glance at the kids was four seconds. In another, Klauer noted that Paula was distracted when one of her kids handed her his empty snack wrapper. In another example, Paula reached for her cell phone, taking her eyes off the road for six seconds.

Fathers are supposed to be the worst offenders. According the Australian study, children distract the men more often and for longer periods of time.

There are solutions. Experts say the first thing to do is set up car rules so your kids know what to expect. If they drop something, parents need to make sure they know the driver cannot pick it up until the car stops.

If you are tempted to take a phone call, which puts the kids in even more danger, consider using an app like Zoom Safer. It blocks incoming calls and text messages by sending an automated response saying you are driving and will answer when you can.

And if you can’t feed the kids before you leave, keep a snack bag close by.

About the Authors: The law firm of Albright, Stoddard, Warnick & Albright is an A-V Rated Nevada-based full-service law firm having attorneys licensed in Nevada, California and Utah. The National Academy of Personal Injury Attorneys named Mark Albright as one of the Top 10 Personal Pnjury attorneys in Nevada in 2014. Our firm’s practice includes a strong emphasis on personal injury accidents. Call us at 702-384-7111.

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