Are Grandparents Safer Drivers Than Parents? New Study Says Yes

By Jason Davis | July 19, 2011
Move over Mom and Dad: Grandma and Grandpa might be safer with your "precious cargo." A new study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that children are safer when grandparents are behind the wheel. The report's findings, published in the peer-reviewed August issue of Pediatrics, surprised researchers, who hypothesized that children faced greater risk of injury due to the "higher age group's increased risk of severe crashes." According to State Farm, which funded the study in collaboration with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, researchers evaluated five years' worth of crash data from accident claims in 16 states, and conducted more than 33,000 interviews and 800 crash investigations involving 11,859 children. Grandparents comprised 9.5 percent of total crashes, but only 6.6 percent of total injuries, despite being more likely to get into accidents, improperly seat children in the front seat, and being less likely to properly secure children. "Perhaps grandparents are made more nervous about the task of driving with the 'precious cargo' of their grandchildren and establish more cautious driving habits to offset these challenges," the researchers wrote. In the study, children were defined as under 16. Injuries included concussion, brain injury, internal organ injury, spinal cord injury, face and extremity fracture, and excluded cuts, bumps, bruises, and burns. Additionally, the study included only State Farm-insured customers with vehicles newer than 1990. After adjustments for driver gender, child age and gender, use of restraints by driver and child, child seating position, crash scene characteristics and severity, the researchers determined that children were half as likely to sustain injury when grandparents drove . The study also shows that 69 percent of accidents occurred when Mom or Grandma were driving; 57 percent of accidents occurred 10 or fewer minutes from home; and 50.5 percent of the crashes with children occurred on roads with speed limits between 25 and 44 mph. Automotive.com's take: An inherent statistic to the study was that older drivers are at increased risk of severe crashes. But the study found that grandparents seated small children in the front seat more often than parents, and also didn't restrain child passengers as well as their parents would. The study did not show whether parents or grandparents were better drivers, but that in a crash, statistics mysteriously point toward less injury with grandparent drivers. This study baffles us for many reasons. Only data from 16 of 50 states was included. Only data from State Farm insured drivers was included and only cars that were newer than 1990 was used. But what about Mercury-insured drivers? Or Geico or AAA? How does the rate of injury fare when Grandma is driving her 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass? How sure can we be that interviewees, contacted via telephone, were completely honest with their insurer (they'd have reason to be less than honest)? Numbers are not our specialty. While we applaud the efforts by those who improve driver and child passenger safety and awareness, we are wary of 95 percent certainties from corporations that stand to profit from our misfortunes. As such, we await the results of an independent and non-biased entity featuring a random and representative sample from all major insurance carriers and include all vehicle makes, models, and years. Sources: ABC News, American Academy of Pediatrics, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
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