Kids in your car: 12 times more distracting than cell phones

12:00 AM, May 15, 2013   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida -- It's no secret that drivers are caught behind the wheel doing all sorts of things. People eat, make phone calls, text, even put on makeup. Those are all activities that take your eyes off the road. But, one of the worst distractions ever may be something you do each day and don't even think about when you do it.

Looking at your own children.

In a first-of-its-kind study, Australian researchers made a startling discovery that has people talking. The researchers found that children are twelve times more distracting to the driver than a cell phone.

According to their findings, the average parent takes his or her eyes off the road for a staggering three minutes and 22 seconds during just a 16-minute trip.

And there are all kinds of reasons to look back at your children.

You might be feeding them, breaking up a fight between siblings, picking things off the floor, or tending to a baby. In fact, babies can be the most distracting factor during a car ride. They are eight times more distracting to the driver than adults in the car, according to AAA.

John Pecchio with AAA in Tampa said he hears it all the time. Parents lead such busy lives that they see time in the car as time to get things done.

"You try to multitask, but there are distractions," John said.

It's a familiar battle.

We hear the warnings and know the dangers. But, ask any parent and they'll tell you that what goes on in their car is most likely chaos. And it happens in nearly every car, every day, on every road in America. The story is the same.

Tampa mother Kate Quinn is a devoted mother-of-three and loves her children dearly. She said being a parent is the greatest joy in life, but even she admitted it gets crazy in her minivan. "When these three are firing away at you, it's very hard to stay focused. I do the best I can."

She added, "I feel like I always need to make sure they're buckled or someone needs a drink. I turn around quite a bit."

10 News is certainly not picking on Kate. She is far from being alone on this one. We mounted cameras in the cars of parents like Kate to showcase just how easy it is to get distracted. Kate took her eyes off the road 106 times in just 45 minutes. She said, put simply, it's a balancing act, non-stop juggling schedules.

"We have swimming and baseball and volunteering. I feel like my nerves are shot by 7:30 in the morning ... Oh, Lord, we made it," she said with a smile.

Even our own 10 News producer Jennifer Stanton told us she's constantly distracted. She admits to signing homework for her twin girls on busy days while driving.

John Pecchio from AAA reminds moms and dads that well over 3,300 people die on the roads each year from distracted driving, which can include the simple act of looking in the rear view mirror and turning around to see your kids.

"Even taking your eyes off the road for a second can cause an accident. I've seen it. The magic number is 1.6 seconds. That's how long the average person takes his or her eyes off the road. Then, your brain tells you to look back," John told 10 News.

Experts suggest to establish some rules for your children while you're in the car, telling them that you cannot pick things up off the floor, turn around, or even adjust the DVR equipped in so many minivans. Let your kids know that you can help them once the car has stopped.

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