Can children be a distraction while driving?

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Could the little ones in the back seat be diverting your attention from the road?

According to the RSA by definition ‘Driver Distraction’ is ‘a diversion of attention away from activities critical for safe driving toward a competing activity’. 

As previously spoken about in preceding articles it was found that this could play a role in 20-30% of all road collisions in Ireland. The two biggest distractions for drivers in Ireland is the use of their mobile phones and children in the car. The use of your mobile phone has already been discussed prior to this. Another major distraction is children. 

Is it possible that children could be a bigger distraction in the car? According to research, little rascals can be 12 times more distracting than talking on your mobile phone. 

On an average 16 minute drive, it was found that parents take their eyes off the road for 3 minutes and 22 seconds this adds up to being distracted 21% of their entire driving time. This is a shocking statistic, the most common thing a parent will do is turn away from the wheel to check their child in the back seat, check the rearview mirror for them, try to converse with the child or even go as far to play with them while driving. Children or babies are 8 times more distracting than adult passengers. 

1 in 10 drivers admitted to having near misses from being distracted by their child while driving. From an AA survey, 9 per cent of drivers admit to having been involved in or narrowly avoiding a collision while attempting to assist a child sitting behind them while 2% of drivers were in fact involved in an accident as a result of attending to their child. 

Being a good parent means being a good driver, keeping your eyes on the road while driving is the best way to protect you and your children from harms way on the road. A few things to think about before heading off on your journey 

  • Make sure your car seat is correctly installed

  • Make sure your child is correctly restrained in their car seat

  • Make sure they have everything they may need while you are driving i.e. soother, toys or bottle

  • Your child is wearing the correct clothing 

  • It is recommended to take breaks often - 15 mins every 2 hours. 

If they are extremely unsettled upon beginning the journey then you should pull in and attend to them and not attempt to do so while driving. 

Over the years the way you drive rubs off on your children, having spent all their time in a vehicle with you they adopt your mannerisms. By taking responsibility for your safe driving this will teach them to do the same and hopefully make them better drivers as adults.  

A few pieces of advice for parents: 

  • Watch your speed - always adjust your speed in line with speed limits 

  • Drive calm - aggressive driving is dangerous, do not lose your concentration by getting angry at either your child or another road user. 

  • Make the car a no phone zone

  • Belt up - ALWAYS put yours and your child's seatbelt on

  • Heed amber lights - adjust your attitude towards amber lights 

  • Focus 

  • A BIG NO to driving under the influence 

  • Be courteous - to pedestrians and cyclists, the more positive behaviour the better 

These are all steps you can take to ensure the safety of yourself, your child and other road users. Being the best parent you can is setting a good example for your children and doing right on the road. Arrive alive!


Justin Kavanagh
Justin Kavanagh is a recognised leader in automotive intelligence and vehicle data supply to the entire motor industry. He has almost 20 years experience in building systems from the ground up. As the Managing Director of Vehicle Management System, he understands the need and importance of trustworthy and reliable vehicle history and advice to both the trade and the public.
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