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Health & Parenting

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Study: Kids Safer in Crashes With Grandparent Drivers

Kids With Grandparent Drivers at Half the Risk of Injuries as Kids With Parent Drivers Who Crash

Safety of Grandparent Drivers: Study Details continued...

Nearly all the children were reported to be restrained at the time of the crash, the researchers found. However, the grandparents were more likely to fall short on proper restraints, Winston says. For instance, they may have used a seat belt without a booster seat when a booster seat was needed.

Earlier this year, guidelines on child restraints were revised by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The revised guidelines advise keeping children in each type of restraint for as long as possible according to recommendations before moving them up to the next seat type.

Grandparent Drivers: Perspectives

The lower crash rate with grandparent drivers may have several explanations, says Nancy Thompson, a spokeswoman for AARP. She reviewed the findings for WebMD.

Older drivers often ''self-regulate," she tells WebMD. "They choose not to drive at night, not to drive in heavy traffic," she says. They often stick to familiar routes. "That may be contributing to it," she says of the lower injury rate.

Thompson also points to recent research finding an overall decline in crash rates among older drivers compared to middle-aged drivers. For instance, a June 2010 report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found just that.

Leon James, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii who studies the psychology of driving, also reviewed the study. "It is unclear what the actual difference is due to," he says of the grandparent-parent driver differences.

He considers the differences found to be small, however. He also points out that it is not a general study about the safety of children transported by parents vs. grandparents, but only a look at what happens in crashes.

"The real importance of this research, in my view, is to show that we need to prepare for the arrival of the baby boomers into the grandparent generation," he says. "We need to train them adequately to understand the importance of using child restraints appropriately."

James offers another tip to parent and grandparent drivers: Be mindful of your driving style and language. Children pick up driving styles and attitudes early, he says.

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