Kids safer with grandparents behind the wheel
July 18th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

Kids safer with grandparents behind the wheel

Youngsters who are driven by their grandparents are less likely to suffer from serious injury if they're involved in a crash, says a new study in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as doctors from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, found even though grandparents are in an older group that has a higher risk of severe crashes, youngsters driven by their grandparents suffered fewer injuries in crashes and were actually safer than children driven by their parents.

“With more and more baby boomers becoming grandparents, we were concerned about children in crashes with grandparents,” says Dr. Fred Henretig, lead author and an attending physician in the Philadelphia hospital's Department of Emergency Medicine.

Investigators, looked at more than four years of crash data ( January 2003- November 2007) to compare restraint-use practices and injuries among children in crashes with grandparents vs. parents. Injury data were collected on 11,859 children under the age of 15. Children driven by grandparents made up 9.5 percent of the sample taken, but resulted in only 6.6 percent of the total injuries.

Researchers found that nearly all children were either in car seats or had seat belts on during the crashes. However children in grandparent-driven vehicles were less likely to be restrained correctly. Despite this, little ones in grandparent-driven crashes had half the risk of injuries as those in parent-driven crashes.

“Although the children in crashes with grandparents could be better protected if they were using child restraints correctly, we were surprised to find that there is a protective effect on child injury risk in a crash when grandparents are driving. There is something about grandparents’ driving style with their ‘precious cargo’ in tow that is protective. If we can learn more about this style of driving, we can help drivers of all ages keep kids safe in cars," noted Henretig.

soundoff (104 Responses)
  1. NoBelts

    Disappointing to see an interesting story ruined by a photo of two children not strapped in or using appropriate seats for their age. Time and time again I see children not in booster seats, not buckled in with a seatbelt and the driver unaware of this. This is the biggest danger to children – not who is driving! You should look at the picture before you use it – it is totally irresponsible.

    July 18, 2011 at 12:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • turtle

      Actually, the article specifically mentioned that one of the strangest parts of the findings is that it seems to happen when the children aren't restrained correctly as well. Not that forgoing car seats and seat belts is ever a good idea, but the picture is quite appropriate to the article.

      July 18, 2011 at 13:38 | Report abuse |
    • SafetyMD

      As one of the authors, I just want to clarify that NoBelts was correct – nearly all of the children in the study were restrained. Grandparents were just less likely to use the right child restraint for the child's size and age. For mor

      July 18, 2011 at 23:51 | Report abuse |
  2. Curmodgeon

    Of course grandparents do a better job with the grandchildren. They practiced parenting on the grandkid's parents and thus do a much better job the second time around!

    July 18, 2011 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dede supini

      When do these grown children's understand that grandchildren do have good skills and knowledge, becaause we have alread raised a family?.

      July 20, 2011 at 07:21 | Report abuse |
  3. smokin11


    July 18, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. morgan painter

    The photo is misleading because the poster wanted to see the little one with the old wrinkled ones.

    However, the fact remains that the study learned children ARE safer with grandparents driving.
    1. Parents are more likely to be rushed and maybe even angry because they are having to deal with unruly kids, therefore they are more distracted or even drive aggressively because they have too much to do, while grandparents are more relaxed and enjoy the trip. There fore the safer environment.

    2. The Grandparents I know actually are more safety conscious when they have grandkids. Several of my friends have told me that. They just feel a duty to be extra careful with the kids.

    3. Since grandparents have more years behind the wheel, they are less likely to place the car in a truly dangerous situation. I suspect the accidents that did occur were very minor so any injuries that occurred were also minor.

    4. Parents are usually on a mission so they drive at or above highway speeds. Grandparents are usually on a leisure trip with the grandkids. Big difference.

    July 18, 2011 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Jacko

    Could it be that grandparents are less likely to be using cell phones while driving?????

    July 18, 2011 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. thinker

    Perhaps today's parents, who have always had to use car seats and seat belts, count on those devices keeping their children safe and so do not put as much care into their driving. Grandparents, on the other hand, are veterans of the pre-car-seat era and might be more aware that how well they drive is a major factor.

    July 18, 2011 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Vikki Stefans

    PLEASE. A mysterious "something" that reduces injuries for grandparents vs parents??? THEY DRIVE SLOWER.

    Slower velocity = less severe impact forces. If someone gets a multimillion dollar grant to further investigate this, I will publicly state that LESS research on the subject is urgently needed. And if ANYONE – grandparent or no – clamis its OK on the basis of misreading this article – e.g. just stopping after the headline – that it's OK for a grandparent to omit those darn newfangled car seat contraptions because they will drive so much more carefully, they ought to come tour my rehab unit sometime because their "precious cargo" is much more likely to need it.

    July 18, 2011 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Melly

      Exactly, older people tend to drive slower! So if they were in an accident, driving slower would reduce injuries. The study also said that the grandparents weren't restraining the children as well as the parents, and that their age group has MORE accidents than that of the parents. More accidents, just maybe less severe ones since they are driving SLOWER. I don't think it's a matter of "grandparents altering their driving style because of their precious cargo," it's just coincidence that this group tends to drive slower. After they lowered the speed limit in the 70's, lawmakers claimed that the new speed laws were responsible for less deaths on the roads. However, what these lawmakers didn't think about was the fact that this was during the "oil crisis" so there were less cars on the road, therefore going to be less deaths anyways.

      July 18, 2011 at 17:08 | Report abuse |
    • dave843

      Old fangled seat belts + grandparents driving is better than super awesome new progressive generation parents driving with super new awesome progressive straightjacket seats apparently.

      August 16, 2012 at 02:47 | Report abuse |
  8. Senior Advisor

    Workbook for Older Drivers & Their Families

    For information on dealing with the safety of older drivers, please see the "Beyond Driving With Dignity" workbook at www (dot) keepingussafe (dot) org

    Regardless of the factors that led this study to its conclusion, a cooperative assessment of older drive safety and appropriate steps by the family benefits everyone.

    July 18, 2011 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Reality

    All drivers of all ages have the capacity to be safe drivers, grandparents have accidents that are extremely deadly! Children are only as safe as we make them!!

    July 18, 2011 at 15:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Willerundi

    You obviously have not driven with my mother in law...!!! The last time I thought I may die, we were doing 60mph SIDEWAYS on a snowy country road in MD in a 35mph zone...

    July 18, 2011 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. George

    Perhaps only grandparents with decent driving skills are given the chance to drive with the grandkids in the car.

    In contrast, it would be a very rare parent who decides they're not a good enough driver to drive around with their own kid.

    People are likely much better (more conservative) judges of OTHER peoples' driving skills than their own.

    July 18, 2011 at 16:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Kim

    This is a typical case of making a wrong conclusion based on analysis of data. This study looked only at children involved in crashes. The sample size is relatively small, and the difference is small also. Another article stated that .7% had injuries when in a crash with grandparents, and 1.05% when riding with parents. No margin of error was given.

    What wasn't studied was the variable of how much more time children spend riding with parents vs. riding with grandparents. Are children more likely to be in a crash when riding with parents or grandparents? In order to make that assumption, which the article is implying, this difference would need to be evaluated as well. I guess the headline "If your kids are going to be in a crash, then let Grandma drive" wouldn't be as dramatic.

    July 18, 2011 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. very annoyed

    Ya.. right. But what about the kids in the cars that crash trying to avoid these terrorist elderly drivers ? My mom is going to kill people in her car. She cannot even drive a freakin shopping cart safeley without crashing but her doctor sent this hack over who said she drives fine after a 10 min drive with her on a rural straight road. God help you all if you are near her when she has one of her confusion episodes ! I tried to stop this with all my might but there's nothing more I can do because there is no mandatory retesting after a head trauma. My sister is indenial about it and its just me against mom. No help from her doctors or anyone else. In fact I told the doc how bad it is and he thought I am just abusive after mom cried about needing her independence. She cannot understand anything beyond what she wants and that's final. The state of ma. Is useless in preventing these elderly massacres like Rabat happened at good Sam hospital in Brocton ma.
    When she does crash into a family I will feel really bad but there is nothing I can do to stop her.. (

    July 18, 2011 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. amalizard

    While not a grandparent, I am the 34 year-old aunt of two 5 year-olds. I am a completely different driver when I have them in the car. Any aggressive driving is completely non-existent, I check multiple times before I change lanes, etc. If anything where to happen to them while in my care, I don't know that I would ever be able to forgive myself or face my brother and sister-in-law again.

    Maybe that's part of what occurred within this study. I think parents become complacent with their kids in the car and the older the kids get, the more the parents driving habits revert to what they were before they had kids. Grandparents don't typically drive their grandchildren every day, and as such, change their driving habits to help reduce the risk of doing something that could cause the kids any harm. Just my theory.

    July 18, 2011 at 21:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Vera

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    July 21, 2011 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. roberta

    Grandparents are more careful with their grandchildren than they were with their own children because they feel that they would never forgive themselves if something happened to the kids "on their watch". As a grandparent, I am more vigilant, take fewer chances, are more attentive and are generally more safety conscious than I was with my own children.

    July 25, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
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