Kids safer in car crashes with grandparent drivers, study finds

    Children involved in car accidents while their grandparents were driving had half the risk of being injured as kids riding with their parents, according to a new study by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia researchers.

    The authors of the study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, looked at a data set based on insurance claims and follow-up phone calls to determine injury rates after accidents.

    “We went into this thinking that we would discover that injury rates were higher in grandparent-driven grandchildren for several possible reasons,” said Fred Henretig, lead author and emergency room doctor at CHOP.

    Henretig said he expected parents to follow the latest car seat-safety guidelines, and be more likely to drive larger cars such as minivans or SUVs. Turns out both those expectations were both true, but kids were still less likely to be injured in accidents while traveling with their grandparents. He said more research is needed to figure out why that it, but, as a grandfather himself, he has a hypothesis.

    “I think we’re driving very cautiously when we have our grandchildren in the car,” Henretig said. “I think we’re more focused on that as the task at hand, rather than worrying about will we make it to soccer practice in time and what will we make for dinner.”

    Roland Vonderheide, state coordinator for the AARP driver-safety course, said the results of the study did not surprise him.

    “Grandparents generally don’t take chances in driving, they drive more defensively in the first place,” Vonderheide said. “We’ve learned, living as long as we have, that things can happen quickly.”

    Grandparents do have room for improvement, though. They were less likely than parents to secure kids properly with car seats or booster seats.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.