Child Passenger Safety Week Is September 15-21

Children are safest in the car when their grandparents are driving

Defensive Driving

Here’s some unforeseen news for new parents: A study in the journal Pediatrics finds that children are much safer driving with Grammie & Grampy than with mom and dad. The chance of a child being injured in a crash drops 50 percent when kids are riding with a grandparent.

Children are safer being driven by their grandparents than by their parents, a new study has revealed. Researchers admitted they were ‘surprised’ by the findings, which shows children involved in accidents in cars driven by their older relatives are 50 per cent less likely to be injured. Previously, research has indicated that car crashes are more common in older drivers, mostly those aged over 65.

Dr. Fred Henretig, an emergency medicine specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the study’s lead author, said: ‘We were surprised to discover that the injury rate was considerably lower in crashes where grandparents were the drivers.’ The surprising results came from an analysis of insurance claims for 2003-07 car crashes in 15 states, involving nearly 12,000 children up to 15 years old.

Dr Henretig, 64, said the study was prompted by his own experiences when his first grandchild was born three years ago. ‘I found myself being very nervous on the occasions that we drove our granddaughter around and really wondered if anyone had ever looked at this before,’ he said. Reasons for the unexpected findings are uncertain, but the researchers have a theory.

‘Perhaps grandparents are made more nervous about the task of driving with the “precious cargo” of their grandchildren and establish more cautious driving habits’ to compensate for any age-related challenges,’ they wrote. Professor Joseph Schofer, a Northwestern University transport expert not involved in the research, noted that the average age of grandparents studied was 58. ‘Grandparents today are not that old and don’t fit the image of an impaired older driver,’ he said. ‘None of us should represent grandparents as kind of hobbling to the car on a walker.’ Despite their surprising record, grandparents did fare less well on one measure of safety. Nearly all the children were in car seats or seat belts, but grandparents were slightly less likely to follow recommended practices, including rear-facing backseat car seats for infants and keeping youngsters out of the front seat. But that did not seem to make any difference to injury rates.