Eat, Talk, Text – But Not While Driving

Distracted driving among parents common including phone talking and child care activities

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Dangerous activities while driving include drinking, texting and falling asleep. But other common activities can be dangerous too, like eating, grooming or feeding your child.

A recent study found that well over half of parents reported doing at least some distracting activity while driving with their kids in the car.

These activities included talking on the phone, eating, grooming, feeding their child, switching out CDs or DVDs and other activities.

"Focus on the road while driving."

The study, led by Michelle L. Macy, MD, a clinical lecturer in the Departments of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Michigan and C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, looked at how frequently parents did other activities while they were driving with their children in the vehicle.

The researchers gave surveys to 618 parents while their children, aged 1 to 12, were being treated at the emergency room for any reason.

A total of 575 of the parents (93 percent) answered all the questions related to distracted driving.

The questions asked parents how often they had done each of the following activities in the past month while they were driving with their children:

  • talked on the phone (handheld or hands-free)
  • some kind of child care (picked up a toy, fed their child, etc.)
  • grooming, eating or another parent self-care activity
  • gotten directions using a map, navigation system, etc.
  • an entertainment-related activity, such as changing a CD or DVD
  • texting

The most common activity reported by the parents was talking on the phone, which approximately three-quarters of the parents reported doing at least once in the past month.

About a third of parents reported talking on the phone during fewer than half of their driving trips. About one fifth of parents (approximately 20 percent) reported talking on the phone during more than half of their trips, and another fifth reported talking on the phone during almost every driving trip.

The least common activity among parents was texting while driving. Not quite 15 percent reported texting while driving, and nearly all of them reported doing it on fewer than half their trips.

About 70 percent of the parents reported doing something for their child (feeding, picking up a toy, etc.) while driving in the past month, and almost as many reported doing something for themselves, such as eating or grooming.

Just over half had used directions at least once in the past month, though all but about 15 percent said they did so on fewer than half their trips in the car.

Half reported doing something related to entertainment, such as switching out a CD or DVD, while driving.

The researchers compared these answers to the parents' answers about their child's restraints in the car. Distracted driving behaviors were more common among parents whose children were not restrained according to state law.

While 69 percent of parents whose children were properly restrained reported some kind of distracted driving activity, 80 percent of parents not using proper restraints with their children reported these activities.

Also, those parents who reported having been in a car accident at least once in their lives were more likely to report distracted driving activities than those who had never been in an accident.

In particular, parents who reported talking on the phone or doing self-grooming or eating while driving were more than twice as likely to have been in at least one car accident previously.

"Lots of attention has been given to distracted teen drivers," Dr. Macy said in a prepared statement.

"However, our results indicate parents are frequently distracted while driving their 1- to 12-year-old children, and these distracted drivers were more likely to have been in a crash."

These findings are preliminary. The study was presented at a conference and has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The research was presented May 6 at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The study was funded by the Michigan Center for Advancing Safe Transportation Across the Lifespan and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development. Information regarding disclosures were unavailable.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 6, 2013
Last Updated:
October 30, 2013