For a safe ride, put your child in the car with grandpa

“Driving like a grandpa” is a description some cynical, younger drivers throw around. Sure, there are older drivers throughout Philadelphia, the state and the rest of the country who might need to have their driving abilities reassessed. A recent study, however, suggests that the public’s critical view of older drivers’ skills needs to be reevaluated.

In a study that was published last month in Pediatrics, researchers supposedly prove that your child might be safer riding in a car with his grandparents than he would be riding with you. Car accidents involving grandparents reportedly result in fewer injuries than accidents involving parent drivers.

Various researchers, including some from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, broke down statistics based on the details of car accidents that occurred between Jan. 15, 2003 and Nov. 30, 2007. They looked at cases involving children below 15 and tried to come up with safety conclusions regarding parent drivers versus grandparent drivers. What the study shows is sort of perplexing.

After adjusting for the multiple variables that could affect crash and injury rates, the study reportedly shows kids are safer when riding with a grandparent driver. Grandparent drivers accounted for only about 10 percent of the studied accidents. Most significant is that kids’ risk of crash injury is reportedly 50 percent lower when a grandparent is driving.

Naturally, when there’s evidence of injury prevention, safety advocates and parents want to know how to spread that safety around and further reduce the likelihood of accident injuries among children. The study, however, couldn’t quite pinpoint why accidents involving grandparent drivers don’t lead to as much injury. In fact, the safety statistic shows improved child safety in grandparents’ cars, even though grandparents are more likely to improperly restrain kids within the vehicle.

It sounds like at least one new study should be devoted to studying more details about grandparent driving and what it is that better protects child passengers. For now, maybe we should all give older drivers a break from our criticism.


Pediatrics, Vol. 128 No. 2: “Grandparents Driving Grandchildren: An Evaluation of Child Passenger Safety and Injuries,” Fred. M Henretig, MD and Michael J. Kallan, MD, Aug. 1, 2011

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