Carpooling may be better for the environment and for traffic congestion, but does it actually make us less safe? Would the roads be a safer place if everyone simply drove alone?
It will never happen, but there is some evidence that it should. Experts note that passengers are a major distraction, often reported after car accidents. They take people’s eyes off of the road and their minds off of driving. In some cases — such as when reaching to hand a snack to a child in the back seat — they also make drivers take their hands off of the wheel.
In fact, these studies have found that parents may be one of the greatest risks on the road. Adult passengers are distracting, but young children are four times as distracting. If that’s not worrisome enough, infants are eights times as distracting as adults.
If you’re a parent, you understand. Infants often cry and scream in the car, making it hard to concentrate. Parents try to soothe them, but it doesn’t always work. Young children often bicker with each other and still need a lot of attention. They want toys, snacks and attention. Many parents will sacrifice safety to try to please them. Even those who don’t get distracted by talking, crying, complaining and arguing.
The passenger issues also come up for young teen drivers who have their friends in the car. In these cases, the distraction combines with a teen’s lack of experience behind the wheel.
The reality, of course, is that many drivers will always have passengers. It’s impossible to eliminate the risk entirely. If you get injured by a distracted driver, be sure you know what legal rights you have.