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Published: Monday, 9/26/2011

Grandparents safer than parents behind wheel


A new study of car crashes suggests that children might be safer when their grandparents are driving than when their parents are at the wheel.

Researchers reviewed data on 11,859 children involved in car accidents over a five-year period, from 2003 through 2007. They also interviewed the parents of 1,302 injured children.

Grandparents were the drivers in 9.5 percent of the crashes, but their accidents resulted in only 6.6 percent of the injuries. After controlling for the gender of the driver, the driver’s use of seatbelts, vehicle type, and the severity of the crash, the scientists found that children were at about half the risk of injury in an accident when their grandparents were driving than when their parents were. The report appears in the August issue of Pediatrics.

“The reasons for the difference are unclear,” said Dr. Flaura K. Winston, the senior author. “But there’s something about the crashes of grandparents that we were unable to measure that was protective. It would be great to figure out what this is, because it could be protecting a lot of kids.”

Winston, who is director of the Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said that despite all the safety technologies in cars, driver behavior is crucial. “You can go out and see kids in a minivan, all strapped in properly,” she said. “And the parent is talking on a cellphone.”

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