A new study from the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) has put forward the unsurprising conclusion that children in a car are 12 times more distracting than a talking on a mobile phone while driving.
The sample size is relatively small, made up of 12 families, who take a total of 92 trips. The researchers, using discreet recording devices placed in the car, found that parents take their eyes off the road in front of them for an average of 3 minutes and 22 seconds during a 16-minute trip. The families had an average of 2 children, 1-8 years of age.
Associate Professor Judith Charlton, one of the researchers, points out that most parents don’t consider children to be a form of distraction, which in her opinion ought to highlight the risks of bringing children along for a ride.
“Previous research has shown that, compared with driving alone, dialling 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,” Associate Professor Charlton said.
“The costs of distracted driving are undeniable. One major and previously unrecognised distraction is kids in the backseat.”
In the study, drivers were observed engaging in potentially distracting activities in 90 of the 92 trips. The most frequent types of distractions included turning to look at the child in the rear seat or watching the rear-view mirror (76.4 per cent), engaging in conversation with the child (16 per cent), assisting the child (7 per cent) and playing with the child (1 per cent).
While the conclusion of this initial study suggests that one potential remedy to the problem is “correct restraint of children” (the study found that children “were in the incorrect position for over 70 per cent of the journey time”), the whole issue of distracted driving seems rather an ironclad argument in favour of the driverless car. If you’re not driving, after all, you can hang out and talk with your kids for 100% of the trip and treat them like human beings, instead of distractions that have to be restrained.