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Brigham researchers suggest pediatricians should remind parents not to text and drive


Two-thirds of parents with children younger than 14 reported that they had read texts while driving over a 30-day period, according to new research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

More than half also reported that they had written texts while driving, said the researchers, whose results were published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The online national survey did not specifically ask the parents if they had children aboard at the time they were texting.

Nearly six out of 10 survey respondents did say they were safer drivers when their children were aboard and two-thirds said they used their cellphones less when the children were in the car.


The researchers looked at the texting and driving patterns of both millennial parents (defined as age 22 to 37) and older parents. Each online survey participant had at least one child younger than 14 and had driven their child in the previous 30 days.

“We found that most parents, regardless of age, reported reading and writing texts while driving in the past month,” said the senior author of the study, Dr. Regan Bergmark, a surgeon at the Brigham who is on the faculty at the Center for Surgery and Public Health.

At the same time, Bergmark said in the statement, “I think parents likely know the risks of distracted driving.”

“My hope is that we can find solutions that prevent deaths and injuries from motor vehicle crashes; when patients arrive in our emergency departments and operating rooms, it is often too late,” Bergmark said.

The survey of 435 parents asked questions about a variety of things, including text message reading and writing; use of e-mail, social media, and maps while driving; and speed while performing these tasks. Researchers calculated a distracted driving score from the answers.

Millennials had higher distracted driving scores than did older parents, which reflected more reckless behavior, researchers said.


Millennial parents also were more likely to read text messages than older parents, while both groups were the same in terms of writing texts, the study found.

The researchers said solutions could include having pediatricians advise parents not to text and and drive or asking people to use an app or program to limit texting and driving.

“We believe there is an opportunity to change behavior by engaging with parents more directly through their children’s pediatrician about distracted driving and having apps or programs that people can commit to using,” Bergmark said.

Much progress still needs to be made, researchers said.

Of those survey participants who had taken their child to a pediatrician in the past year, less than a quarter had been asked about their texting and driving behavior. And only about a quarter of millennial parents and about 17 percent of older parents used an app or cellphone feature aimed at reducing texting and driving, the survey found.

Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com