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Children are safer with grandparent in driver's seat: study

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Helicopter parents, take note. When it comes to car crashes, kids are safer when grandparents are behind the wheel, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that the risk of injury to children is "significantly lower" when they are driven by grandma and grandpa, versus mom and dad. And that's despite the older generation's "less optimal" use of child restraints, such as car seats.

The study's authors assessed crash data on 11,859 children from 2003 to 2007, using insurance claims to the State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company as the source of subjects. The crashes were analyzed from 15 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. And while grandparents made up 9.5 per cent of the car crashes studied, only 6.6 per cent of the injuries occurred with them in the driver's seat, the study reports: "The adjusted risk of child injury for grandparent drivers was 50 per cent lower than that for parent drivers."

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The results were unexpected, researchers say, as older drivers - especially those 65 and up - have long been associated with increased risk of car accidents.

"We were surprised to find that there is a protective effect on child-injury risk in a crash when grandparents are driving," says Fred Henretig, lead author of the study, in a press release. "There is something about grandparents' driving style with their 'precious cargo' in tow that is protective."

Flaura Winston, director of the National Science Foundation's Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies and co-author of the study, says she suspects that they "tend to drive more slowly, more cautiously [and]in the right lane."

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