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Study: children are safer when grandparents drive

In recent years, state and local legislatures and law enforcement agencies in California and throughout the country have debated the potential safety ramifications of elderly drivers. Namely, safety advocates are concerned about the common risky behaviors displayed by older drivers, such as slower response times and increased confusion. However, those who believe that older drivers should be allowed to keep their driving privileges now have some new information on their side.

A new study is reporting that children are safer in cars driven by their grandparents than by their parents. To reach this conclusion, researchers examined data on auto accidents involving over 217,000 children in 15 states and the District of Columbia between 2003 and 2007, and found that grandparents were behind the wheel in just 10 percent of all crashes. In addition, the data showed that grandparents were responsible for only seven percent of all car accident injuries to children under the age of 17.

Although more research is needed, the researchers believe that grandparents pose less of a risk to children because they are more likely to utilize safe driving habits when their grandchildren are in the car, such as driving at lower speeds and taking fewer risks when driving on busy roads, merging or changing lanes. In addition, grandparents are reportedly less likely to take their grandchildren on long trips on busy highways, which is where car accidents most commonly take place.

In addition, the study showed that grandparents were less likely to utilize proper safety restraints than parents, adding further evidence that they drive more safely when grandchildren are in the car.

Source: Time, "Kids Are Safer in the Car With Their Grandparents Behind the Wheel," Alice Park, 18 July 2011

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