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Kid's & Teen Health

Drivers Admit to Using Cellphones While Driving, Even with Kids in the Car

A study done at the University of California, San Diego and published in August 2015 in Journal of Transport & Health reveals that middle-aged drivers are at higher risk of crashes because they use their cellphone regularly while driving. The research reveals that most drivers admit to using their cellphones regularly while driving, even with children in the car. Drivers also feel pressured to answer work calls while driving.

The authors of the study are now working with companies to teach employees about the risks associated with distracted driving, and show them ways to avoid using their phones while driving.

A release from the publisher notes that more than one in four car accidents are caused by cellphone use, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). A driver’s crash risk is eight times higher if the person is texting on a cellphone. Not only that, but despite seeming safe, talking hands-free makes drivers four times more likely to be involved in a crash.

Previous studies on distracted driving have mainly focused on teenagers and young people, and programs targeting this group have decreased their number of crashes. Although older adults often use their cellphones while driving too, there is a shortage of studies on this age group.

The researchers modified a survey they had done previously with college students, to find out more about the driving behaviors of middle-aged adults (30-64 years old). 715 people completed the survey; 75% of them were women and their average age was 46. The survey asked participants questions about their driving behaviors and cell phone use, such as whether they text at red lights or in traffic, how often they use cellphones (handheld or hands-free), and whether they use a cellphone while driving with children in the car.

The results revealed that 75% of participants talk on cellphones hands-free, and almost 90% of them consider themselves capable or very capable drivers while doing so. Less than 30% of participants knew that talking on a hands-free phone increases the risk of crashing to the same degree as driving at the legal alcohol limit.

The release quotes Jessa Engelberg, lead author of the study, as saying, “Unfortunately, we weren’t surprised to see that relatively few people understand the risks of distracted driving. What we were really interested in was whether factors like children and work obligations had an effect on people’s behavior.”

The researchers were surprised to find that the presence of children in the car did not affect drivers’ behavior. Drivers continued to use their mobile phones with children as passengers, even with older children that were more likely to copy their driving behavior.