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Why parents may be the most distracted of all drivers

Most Michigan residents are familiar with the term distracted driving and understand the dangers associated with talking or texting on a cellphone, eating or tuning the radio station while driving. While there's no doubt that these activities are indeed distracting and dangerous for drivers, a 2013 Australian study revealed what may very well be the most distracting thing of all to a driver—his or her child.

For any parent who has ever driven with a crying infant, high-maintenance toddler or squabbling siblings in the back seat, the results of the study may not be too surprising. However, while most parents can probably relate to being distracted by a child at some point and time while driving, many likely don't realize just how distracted they truly are.

When reviewing the driving behaviors of parents researchers noted that, during a 16 minute car ride, parents took their eyes off of the road for an average of three minutes and 22 seconds. Based on their findings, researchers determined that children are a whopping 12 times more distracting to a parent driver than if he or she was talking on a cellphone.

From turning around to retrieve a fallen toy on the back seat floor to repositioning the rear-view mirror in an attempt to play referee to a back seat brawl, distracted parents are putting their lives and those of their children and others in danger. The results of this study should serve as a wakeup call for parents who may be guilty of being distracted by a child passenger.

When planning to transport a child or children, parents are advised to be prepared. Ensuring that a son or daughter has water and a snack within reach as well as a toy or coloring book can help reduce the demands for immediate attention from the back seat. Additionally, prior to starting out on a trip, parents should talk to their children about the dangers of distracted driving and make it clear that mom or dad cannot tend to a child's every need while he or she is driving.

Source: ABC News, "One of the Worst Driving Distractions on the Road: Your Kids," Paula Faris, March 19, 2013

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