Potential distractions and unsafe driving behaviors among drivers of 1- to 12-year-old children

Michelle Lea Macy*, Patrick M. Carter, C. Raymond Bingham, Rebecca M. Cunningham, Gary L. Freed

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Objective Driver distraction has been identified as a threat to individual drivers and public health. Motor vehicle collisions remain a leading cause of death for children, yet little is known about distractions among drivers of children. This study sought to characterize potential distractions among drivers of children. Methods A 2-site, cross-sectional, computerized survey of child passenger safety practices was conducted among adult drivers of 1- to 12-year-old children who presented for emergency care between October 2011 to May 2012. Drivers indicated the frequency with which they engaged in 10 potential distractions in the past month while driving with their child. Distractions were grouped in 4 categories: 1) nondriving, 2) cellular phone, 3) child, and 4) directions. Information about other unsafe driving behaviors and sociodemographic characteristics was collected. Results Nearly 90% of eligible parents participated. Analysis included 570 drivers (92.2%). Non-driving-related and cellular phone-related distractions were disclosed by >75% of participants. Fewer participants disclosed child (71.2%) and directions-related distractions (51.9%). Child age was associated with each distraction category. Cellular phone-related distractions were associated with the child riding daily in the family car, non-Hispanic white, and higher education. Parents admitting to drowsy driving and being pulled over for speeding had over 2 times higher odds of disclosing distractions from each category. Conclusions Distracted driving activities are common among drivers of child passengers and are associated with other unsafe driving behaviors. Child passenger safety may be improved by preventing crash events through the reduction or elimination of distractions among drivers of child passengers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-286
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014


  • accident prevention
  • child passenger safety
  • driving distractions
  • survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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