Car safety: Let Grandma drive the kids

Posted July 18, 2011, at 9:59 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — One less reason to worry about having Grandma drive the kids: It might lower the chances that your kids will get injured.

According to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania found that kids who rode in cars with grandparents driving were less likely to get injured than kids riding with parent drivers — even though older drivers are more likely to be involved in crashes than younger ones. The finding was unexpected, the team reported.

They looked at insurance data and subsequent interviews regarding crashes that occurred from Jan. 15, 2003, to Nov. 30, 2007, involving 217,976 children 15 or younger. Injuries were reported for 1,302 kids. Among those kids, 161 were driving with grandparents, resulting in an injury rate for grandparent drivers of 0.7 percent; while 2,293 were in the car with parent drivers, resulting in an injury rate for parents of 1.05 percent.

That greater chance of injury existed even though parents were more likely to use child-safety restraints correctly, the group reported.

As for why grandparents might be safer drivers, the researchers suggested that they might be taking special pains to be careful when shuttling grandchildren. “Perhaps grandparents are made more nervous about the task of driving with the ‘precious cargo’ of their granchildren and establish more cautious driving habits,” they wrote, which help the older drivers offset “perceptual deficiencies and problems judging and responding to traffic flow.”

The researchers recommended that grandparents get even safer by learning how to correctly harness kids in the car, and that nongrandparents learn how to emulate grandparents’ protective driving practices.

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