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"The study also found a correlation between cell phone use while children were in the car and other risky driving behaviors, such as not wearing a seat belt and driving under the influence of alcohol whether or not children were present in the car," said a press release from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which did the research with the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. It was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.
The study was conducted online among 760 adults in 47 U.S. states who said they were a parent or routine caregiver of a child between the ages of 4 and 10, and had driven their oldest child between those ages at least six times in the preceding three months. The poll found that 52.2 percent of parents had talked on a hands-free phone while driving with a young child in the car, while 47 percent had done so with a hand-held phone. It also found that 33.7 percent read text messages, 26.7 percent sent text messages, and 13.7 percent reported using social media while driving with children.
"The results from this research reinforce that risky driving behaviors rarely occur in isolation, and lay the groundwork for interventions and education specifically aimed at parents who drive with young children in their cars," said lead author Catherine McDonald, of the hospital's Center for Injury Research and Prevention and the university's Community Health Department.
McDonald said doctors need to warn parents about such risky behaviors. "This type of education is especially pivotal today, as in-vehicle technology is rapidly changing and there is increased – and seemingly constant – reliability on cell phones," she said. "However, it is also important to note that even parents who did not engage in risky behaviors, such as not wearing a seat belt as a driver or driving under the influence of alcohol, still used their cell phones while driving."