Study Challenges Assumptions about a High-Risk Insurance Group

Children may be far safer with Grandma or Grandpa driving than with their parents behind the wheel, according to a new study that is raising eyebrows nationwide.

Researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that kids’ odds of being hurt in an auto accident were reduced by as much as 50 percent when a grandparent was driving, rather than their mother or father.

The study—which analyzed insurance claims data from accidents involving nearly 12,000 child passengers under the age of 16 that occurred between 2003 and 2007—focused on injuries resulting from crashes rather than which age group crashed more often.

Two women in carResearchers found that about 1.05 percent of children in the sample were injured while riding with parents, as compared to 0.7 percent who were injured while being driven by grandparents, a 33 percent reduction in risk. The disparity grew to as much as 50 percent when considerations such as the age of car and whether car seats were used were factored in.

“There is something about grandparents’ driving style with their ‘precious cargo’ in tow that is protective,” the study’s lead author, Fred Henretig, said in a news release.

The median age for grandparents in the study was 58; the median for parents was 36.

Researchers did not report all good news for grandparents, however. More than a quarter of them failed to use car seats and other safety restraints as recommended. Parents used the devices correctly 80 percent of the time.

The study, which is scheduled to appear in the August edition of the journal Pediatrics, comes on the heels of earlier research that found significant declines in accidents among older drivers, particularly fatal crashes.

Older drivers have historically been thought to get into crashes at a higher rate when compared with other demographics and have been labeled a high risk auto insurance group.

But fatal crashes involving drivers 70 and older fell by about 37 percent between 1997 and 2008, according to a report last year from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

IIHS researchers speculated that the decreases might be attributable to “self-policing” on the part of older drivers who either cut back on or quit driving altogether.

 

About Gregor McGavin
Gregor McGavin is an award-winning journalist who has reported across the country for such publications as The Associated Press, the Arizona Republic, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Press-Enterprise.

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