Parents of young kids may be most distracted drivers of all - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Parents of young kids may be most distracted drivers of all

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Drivers face some tough challenges on the road, but when it comes to distracted driving, you shouldn't always blame the teenagers.

It turns out parents may be the most distracted drivers on the road, and Channel 4 News has the video that could prove it.

As if parenting isn't tough enough, try parenting in the car.

"I just try to keep them distracted with coloring books or movies," said mother of two Mandy Gamez. "You learn to deal with it. And I think, as a mother, I learned to block out a lot of screaming."

That may be easier said than done, and to prove the point, our news crew placed cameras in the cars of two willing parents, who also work part-time at Channel 4.

Aside from getting his mom to take a hand off the wheel several times to grab food or a toy, young Noah Wiley also got her to take an eye off the road during our experiment.

"I try not to have the radio on, try to not have that added distraction. I try to keep the radio off," mother Ashley Wiley said.

Next up was little Zoe Terrell.

With her dad, Dave Terrell, behind the wheel, she managed to sit still in her car seat but still pointed her dad's attention to things along the side of a busy road while he tried to navigate morning traffic.

All told, Zoe seemed to get it - partly, Dave Terrell said, because he levels with her when it matters most.

"It's just a balancing act, you know, and a lot of times, I'll tell her, 'I'm driving. I've got to pay attention to the road right now.' And she understands it," he said.

And that, for AAA agent Deborah Turner, makes good sense.

"I think ignoring them is only going to make them madder at you," Turner said.

As a former long-haul driver herself, Turner recommends parents develop a consistent plan for the kids' behavior and their own.

Distract the kids, she says, so you can pay attention behind the wheel.

"I have pulled up and seen people reading a newspaper, heaven forbid, while they're on the interstate. You can't do that and be safe," Turner said.

As a pediatrician and researcher at the University of Michigan, Dr. Michelle Macy surveyed hundreds of parents who visited the emergency room after car crashes.

"I think the most concerning finding is the fact that we're seeing so much technology-based distraction, while the car is moving and parents are driving their children," Macy said.

Her research suggests parents who are wealthier and more educated can be the most distracted behind the wheel, especially when their children fall between 4 and 7 years old.

"We found that parents who reported engaging in the distracted activities were two times as likely to have ever been in a crash," Macy said.

And that could be reason enough for parents to develop a plan and stick with it to keep their cool in case their kids cannot.

"That's the most precious thing in the world, a child," Turner said. "And that's our future. Don't play games with our future. Be safe."

Time and again, Macy's research pointed to the dangers of parents using their cell phones with children in the backseat, but hands-free devices don't always help either. Studies show your hands may be on the wheel but your brain can easily be elsewhere.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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