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Nov 04, 2013 06:54 AM EST

Children more Distractive to Drivers than Mobile Phones, Study

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A new study, by the Monash University Accident Research Centre, found that having young children in the back seat is 12 times more distracting to a driver than chatting on a phone.

Test conducted for the study showed that parents spent almost 20 percent of their journey turning around or looking in the rear-view mirror to check on the kids.

This is the first of its kind study that has assessed the impact of kids on drivers.

The researchers arrived at the conclusion after monitoring 12 families over a three week period. They fixed a tiny camera in their cars to study the distracting activities undertaken by the driver. The families had an average of two children, between 1-8 years of age.

They found that among 90 of the 92 short trips, drivers became easily distracted when a child was in the car. Around 76 percent of the time, drivers directly looked at the kids or checked them through the rear-view mirror. Other distractions included talking to a child (16 percent), assisting the child (7 percent) and playing with them (1 percent).

The study also found the average parent takes his or her eyes off the road for three minutes and 22 seconds during a 16-minute trip. Plus, having another adult in the front seat did not significantly reduce the distractions of the driver.

 "Drivers often don't consider their own children to be a distraction. This highlights the need for education about the risks of focusing on their children rather than the road," Professor Judith Charlton from the university's Accident Research Centre said in an official statement.

 "Previous research has shown that, compared with driving alone, dialing a mobile phone while driving is associated with 2.8 times the crash risk, and talking or listening while driving is associated with 1.3 times the crash risk," said Charlton, the leader of the study. "The costs of distracted driving are undeniable. One major and previously unrecognised distraction is kids in the backseat."

 Researchers found that 70 percent of the journey time, children were in an incorrect position.

"A key difference is that parents have to drive with their children, whereas they do not need to use a mobile phone while driving. Using a mobile phone while at the wheel is an avoidable and dangerous distraction," Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), told Daily Mail UK.

"Having said that, parents do have to manage the distraction caused by child passengers, and if children are getting too boisterous or fractious, the driver should find somewhere safe to stop to deal with the situation."

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