By Stephanie Stahl

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The roads are filled with parents driving children and you’d think safety would be paramount but new research from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Penn says an alarming number of parents are distracted drivers.

Researchers say 47 percent of parents admitted they used handheld phones when driving their children, as 33 percent admitted to reading text messages and 13 percent said they were on social media.

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This research also finds that parents who use their cellphones while driving their kids are also more likely to engage in other risky driving behaviors.

parents cellphone use while driving kids study Nearly 50 Percent Of Parents Use Their Cellphones While Driving Kids, Study Says

Credit: (CBS3)

“We weren’t necessarily surprised at the level of cellphone use,” said Catherine McDonald of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

McDonald with CHOP’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention led the study that covered 760 parents in 47 states.

Distracted driving is now a public health crisis, causing a growing number of car crashes and injuries.

“There’s an increased risk of crashes when someone is engaging with a cellphone, particularly behaviors that take the eyes off the roadway,” explained McDonald.

The research also found that parents who use phones while driving their children are also more likely to drive under the influence and not always use seat belts.

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“That’s a dangerous thing,” McDonald said. “We want to decrease those behaviors obviously. We want to keep people safe on the road and we want to reduce that risk for crashes.”

In addition to the increased risk for collisions, the researchers are also worried that children who see their parents engage in unsafe practices will do the same when they grow up, mimicking bad behavior, something researchers hope to reverse.

“We also want them to model safe behaviors for that child who is going to grow up and maybe become a driver themselves,” McDonald said.

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The research also found that even parents who did not engage in risky behaviors, with seat belts and alcohol, they still used their cellphones while driving.

Stephanie Stahl