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Forget Cell Phones -- Kids In The Car Are Even More Distracting


(CBS) -- We all know that cell phones and driving don't mix, and there are laws against that. But many of us drive around with something that one recent study suggests is 12 times more distracting.

CBS 2's Mary Kay Kleist gives us an unusual look at what's going on inside the car as you drive.

Kids – they can be a handful in the car. When they beg for your attention, the ride could become dangerous.

"It's very busy. There's a lot of noise. Sometimes they can be fighting," says mom Melissa Herscher.

"It's a little hectic because I have three under 3," agrees Susan Fallon.

They were among four parents who agreed to allow CBS 2 to put cameras in their cars, and then  three safety experts analyzed the videos.

Virginia Tech transportation researcher Charlie Klauer looked at how long the drivers kept their eyes off the road, and found the mother of three was the most distracted.

"Her 'eyes off road' time was at least 50 percent there for a good minute to 2 minutes, and that's really dangerous," Klauer says.

Fallon told CBS she kept looking back to check the position of her newborn.

"I actually rear-ended someone when these two were smaller in the car because they were causing a fuss," she says.

National Safety Council expert John Ulczycki noticed a potentially dangerous situation when one of the parents, David Benjamin, reached back while the car was moving. Benjamin says he was concerned because his child was chewing on his shoe.

Ulczycki advised: "I wouldn't have done that until the car was totally stopped."

Hinsdale Deputy Chief Mark Wodka believes taking your eyes off the road for any length of time is a recipe for disaster.

"In half a second, a child can run out into the middle of the roadway, or somebody else who's distracted can come into your lane of travel," he says.

Hinsdale has a new ordinance allowing police to fine drivers who are distracted for any reason.

Both Laila Benjamin and Melissa Herscher took their eyes off the road occasionally but  got the best marks.

Suzanne Fallon and David Benjamin did the right thing because they eventually pulled to the side of the road.

"It only takes a second for something to happen," David Benjamin says.

Besides pulling over, Klauer has another suggeston:"You can talk, you can sing, you can do all those kinds of interactions with your kids while you're driving, but you need to keep your eyes on the forward roadway."

Experts say crashes and near-crashes happen when you least expect it. When you look away to adjust the radio or hand a snack to your child, things can change quickly.

Before you hit the road, make sure the kids are secure in their seats and have what they need so you don't have to take your eyes off the road.

The Hinsdale ordinance took effect in January. So far, 26 warning tickets have been issued. But starting July 1, drivers will start facing $35 fines.

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