A new study by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia researchers, published in the journal Pediatrics, examined five years of crash data from State Farm Insurance. The researchers analysed data from nearly 12,000 children aged 15 or younger who were involved in car accidents and followed up with phone interviews. The median age of the grandparent drivers was 68; the median age of the parent drivers was 36.
While previous studies had indicated that older drivers � especially those aged 65 or older � had more crashes, but the latest study found that children’s’ risk of injury was up to 50 percent lower when riding with their grandparents than their parents.
Researchers looked at the number of children involved in parent-driven crashes and in grandparent-driven crashes. They found the overall risk of injury was 33 percent lower with grandparent drivers. When they adjusted for such factors as restraint use and model of car, they found the 50 percent reduction in injury risk with grandparent drivers.
“Although the crashes with grandparent drivers were 9.5% of the crashes we studied, they didn’t represent 9.5 percent of the injuries,” said Flaura Winston, one of the study’s authors. “They represented 6.6 percent.”
The study found that almost all of the children were restrained at the time of the accidents, though grandparents were more likely to misuse restraints like seatbelts or car seats.
The pattern of injuries was similar regardless of the driver, with head injury claims the most common.
The authors did not point to a reason why children might be safer with their grandparents, though they did highlight the importance of this type of study.
“Our population is aging and many “boomers” will become grandparents in the next 20 years,” they wrote. “Grandparents constitute a signi?cant population of child caretakers and of drivers with child occupants; grandparents are a group that has been largely untargeted for speci?c child-occupant safety education; we found that despite a lower relative risk of child injury in crashes involving grandparent drivers, there is still room for improvement in their use of optimal restraint and rear-seat position; and, ?nally, if grandparents are doing something right in child occupant injury prevention, maybe we can learn from them and apply this insight to more general driver-education content targeted to all drivers of children.”