A big driver distraction: kids

Chris Zimmerman is a Beaverton father of three who shuttles his kids from place to place. December 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
Chris Zimmerman is a Beaverton father of three who shuttles his kids from place to place. December 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

BEAVERTON, Ore. (KOIN) – Shannon Yake is the mother of five. Chris Zimmerman is the father of three. Both Beaverton parents take their kids on trips, shuttle them to school and events and pay attention to what’s going on.

But sometimes, their kids — like all kids — can distract parents while they drive.

Without knowing exactly what this KOIN 6 News investigation was about, both Yake and Zimmerman gave permission to put cameras in their cars. The results were eye-opening.

For every two second a driver takes their eyes off the road, AAA Oregon’s Marie Dodds said, a driver doubles their chances for an accident. Every year, 3,000 people die in distracted driving crashes.

And a study in Australia found “The average parent takes their eyes off the road for 3 minutes 22 seconds during a 16 minute trip.” The most frequent distraction, the study said, is turning to look at a child or watching them in the rear view mirror.

That same study said “children are 12 times more distracting” to a driver than talking on a cell phone while driving.

MOM

“It’s very busy,” Shannon Yake said. “I feel like I live in my car most of the time.”

When she picked her kids up from school, there was a lot to talk about. She never once turned around to look at her kids — but she did take her eyes off the road to check them in her rear view mirror 40 times in eight minutes.

DAD

Cameras rolled as Chris Zimmerman picked up his daughter and ran errands. At home, KOIN 6 News asked him how he thought he did as the driver.

“I think I did pretty good,” he said. “I know I was answering a lot of questions, though.”

During a six minute period, he took his eyes off the road 14 times to interact with his kids in the rear view mirror.

AAA experts said just being aware of this kind of distraction can help drivers stay focused on the road. No matter what the distraction, drivers can miss things that are right in front of them — pedestrians, bicyclists, red lights.

If your kids need your attention, experts say pulling over is the safest bet.

As Zimmerman said, his kids are “precious cargo. You have to be careful about what you’re doing.”

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