Few things are as important for parents as keeping their children safe. This especially applies to vehicle safety, where most parents are conscientious about ensuring their kids buckle their seat belts and are generally as safe as possible.

Man in White Dress Shirt Holding Smartphone

But distracted driving has been on the rise the past few years, causing thousands of deaths every year because of cell phone use and other distractions. And what’s worse, parents (whether they know it or not) may bear some of the responsibility. According to a survey by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), parents are nearly 50% more prone to distracted driving with kids in the car. As a parent, are you inadvertently part of the problem?

Why Parents Are Often More Distracted

For some hard numbers on the epidemic of distracted driving in the US, let’s look at a Distracted Driving Report from insurance comparison website The Zebra. According to Meyer:

  • Distracted driving killed 3,308 people in 2022.
  • Drivers may engage in distracting behavior up to 50% of the time, a 30% increase from four years ago.
  • The majority of people (71%) think texting while driving is just as dangerous as drinking and driving, yet many of us do it anyway.

Meyer also points out that most Millennials and Gen Z are likely to use their phones while driving, compared to Boomers, most of whom don’t. At the same time, research associate at IIHS Aimee Cox points out that parents of children under 18 are 65% more likely to use their phones while driving. According to Cox, this includes behavior that is much more dangerous than merely texting, including full-on FaceTime and social media while on the road.

In fact, young parents, especially parents of toddlers, are some of the most distracted drivers in America. Why? The answer is simple: young children are distracting.

Any parent of a young child can tell you they can be a lot to handle when you’re behind the wheel. For example, they might have to manage their children’s needs in the back seat, such as reaching for milk bottles, juice boxes, pacifiers, or toys. They might have to deal with a tantrum or squabble between multiple siblings, try to calm a tantrum or change music or media to help keep the kids entertained. Most or all of these activities involve taking your eyes off the road and maybe your hands off the wheel — the definition of distracted driving.

To be fair, this isn’t necessarily the parents’ fault — kids need to be attended to, and even the most patient and observant parent is likely to get distracted one way or another.

Other Types of Distracted Driving

Unfortunately, even as children grow beyond their toddler years and get older, the distractions don’t necessarily decrease. Older children may ask for drinks or snacks, ask the timeless question, “Are we there yet,” and sing or yell. And some siblings don’t grow out of fighting no matter how old they get.

Distracted behavior might not even come directly from children being in the car — other types of distracted behavior might include accepting calls or responding to texts from teens and older kids, checking weather reports on the drive to school, or operating the GPS while trying to find the location of an activity.

Practical Tips to Drive More Safely

Distracted driving can be hugely dangerous, and accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. Taking your eyes off the road, even for a few seconds at 55 mph, is the equivalent of traveling the length of an entire football field without looking. The consequences of letting your attention wander can be severe, leading to vehicle damage, injuries, or worse.

To some degree, distractions are inevitable, especially when you have others in the car with you. The trick is to minimize those risks as much as you can and drive as safely as possible. Not only is this important for road safety, but it’s also beneficial to provide model driving behavior to your kids so they don’t emulate any recklessness when they get to be of driving age.

One of the best ways to minimize danger is to prepare as much as you can. Take care of snacks, GPS, and music or media before the car is in motion. If possible, turn on the “do not disturb” feature on your phone or get a hands-free device. As it turns out, using the phone hands-free is not necessarily that much less distracting, but it will keep your hands on the wheel and (hopefully) your eyes on the road.

None of us can control what happens to our kids, in the car or otherwise, but we can do our best to make sure they’re as safe as possible.

, Are You a More Distracted Driver When Your Kids Are in The Car?, Days of a Domestic Dad