While many grandparents are in an age group that has a higher risk of vehicle crashes, a new study shows that children are actually safer in a crash when grandma or grandpa is behind the wheel.
Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia examined five years worth of crash data, including 217,976 children. This was a cross-sectional study of motor vehicle crashes that occurred from January 15, 2003, to November 30, 2007, involving children aged 15 years or younger, with cases identified via insurance claims and data collected via follow-up telephone surveys.
Grandparents comprised 9.5 percent of drivers in crashes (the rest were parents), but resulted in only 6.6 percent of the total injuries. Injuries were reported for 1302 children, for an overall injury rate of 1.02 per 100 child occupants. These represented 161 injuries with grandparent drivers and 2293 injuries with parent drivers.
In comparing grandparent drivers to parent drivers, nearly all child occupants were restrained at the time of the crash (98% versus 99%). However, 26 percent of grandparent drivers did not ensure that their child passengers were properly restrained in car seats or seat belts versus 19 percent of parent drivers, with 4 to 8-year-old passengers the most likely to be improperly restrained.
After controlling for other factors, children involved in crashes with grandparents behind the wheel were half as likely to be injured as those driven by parents.
“With more baby boomers becoming grandparents, we were concerned about children in crashes with grandparents,” said Dr. Fred Henretig, lead author and an attending physician in CHOP’s Department of Emergency Medicine, in a news release. “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. If we can learn more about this style of driving, we can help drivers of all ages keep kids safe in cars.”
While further research needs to be conducted to better clarify the protective effect of grandparent drivers, study authors believe they may drive more cautiously when transporting their grandchildren. Subsequent studies of grandparent driving practices while carrying grandchildren may help inform future child-occupant driving education guidelines for all drivers.
For more on child safety issues, see the library of articles by Daytona Beach child injury attorney.