Study: Grandparent Drivers Are Safer for Kids

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Conventional wisdom would have us believe that little old ladies tend to cause more car accidents than other drivers, but could your kids be safer riding with them than with you? Perhaps, if that little old lady is the child’s grandmother.

New data from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia show children may be safer in a vehicle with their grandparents than their parents. Using claim data from State Farm Insurance, CHOP researchers showed that kids were about 50% less likely to get hurt if a grandparent was behind the wheel in an accident.

Crashes with grandparents behind the wheel only comprise 9.5% of all U.S. traffic accidents, and only 6.6% of car-related injuries suffered by children came from accidents with a grandparent behind the wheel.

CHOP looked at crash data involving 11,859 children from 2003-2007, and came away with one conclusion that would seem to work against keeping kids safe. Researchers found that parents do a better job of restraining their kids than grandparents, but that didn’t significantly alter the results in the CHOP study.

In both cases (parents or grandparents behind the wheel), 98% of the time the kids were wearing their seat belt. But just 19% of parent drivers did an “improper” job of securing their kids, compared to 26% of grandparents who did not properly secure the child before driving.

“Although the children in crashes with grandparents could be better protected if they were following best practices for using child restraints, we were surprised to find that there is something about grandparents’ driving style with their ‘precious cargo’ in tow that provides a protective benefit for those children,” says Dr. Fred Henritig, the study’s lead researcher and an attending physician at CHOP’s Department of Emergency Medicine. “If we can learn more about this style of driving, we can help drivers of all ages keep kids safe in cars.”

Henritig says he got the idea for the study after driving with his own 3-year-old granddaughter. He says he was “nervous” about driving his grandchild, and wondered whether that nervousness led to traffic incidents where his grandchild may be more likely to be in harm’s way.

“With more baby boomers becoming grandparents, we were concerned about children in crashes with grandparents,” Henritig said.

He found that his natural “nervousness” translated into safer, more cautious driving habits when his 3-year-old granddaughter was on board, an instinct shared by the vast majority of grandparents cited in the CHOP study, he says.

Study researchers also note that many grandparents aren’t exactly senior citizens. Baby boomers in their 50s already have millions of grandchildren, but are young enough to not factor into driving statistics that say seniors 65 and over are most likely to be involved in a traffic accident.

So the next time Grandma swings by to take the kids to lunch, wave goodbye with both hands because chances are, your kids are safer in the car with her than with you.

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