Kids may be safer when riding in a car driven by a grandparent than when a parent drives, according to a study published July 18 in the journal Pediatrics.
In a review of car crash insurance claims and follow-up telephone interviews, researchers from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania found that the risk of child injury for grandparent drivers was 50 percent lower than for parent drivers.
A number of factors make the findings surprising: Grandparents aren't quite as good as parents about following current car seat best-practice recommendations, which in some cases exceed state laws. As a group, senior drivers face a higher risk of traffic accidents. Grandparents also tend to drive passenger cars and pickup trucks, which have a higher crash-injury rate for children than minivans and sport utility vehicles.
"Extensive literature exists on older drivers, suggesting that as a group, they are more risk averse than younger drivers but suffer from perceptual deficiencies and problems judging and responding to traffic flow," the study authors write. "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."
Researchers conducted the study because grandparents often drive their grandchildren, yet little is known about their child-passenger safety practices or injuries after crashes. Car accidents are the leading cause of death among children in the United States. Data came from State Farm claims for car crashes that occurred from Jan. 13, 2003 to Nov. 30, 2007.