In our latest study 'Baby Driver' we surveyed 1,200 parents who are able to drive and have had a baby in the last 5 years to try and shed some light on driving habits when babies and young children are involved.
Our first question quizzed whether or not parents had previous children with some very interesting findings on their choices and behaviours concerning driving and their baby. In our survey, 55% of respondents were first-time parents. Our first finding with first-time parents is that they drove a lot less than those who already had children - this would make sense as they have more reasons to drive and presumably more experienced at it. First time mothers are also significantly less likely to get back on the road straight away following birth (16%) as opposed to those with existing children (35%).
When it came to worries on the road, first-time parents were most concerned with getting lost (21%), other drivers (20%) and making a mistake (20%) whereas parents who already had children were most concerned with crashing their car (24%) and other drivers (24%).
Lastly, Baby Driver found that 66% of new parents purchased a new car with the most common time being while they were pregnant (37%). The most significant assumption we made from this section was just how important a car really is to a new family, especially when you consider that 2 in 3 expectant parents made such a large financial decision and a new vehicle purchased almost as often as any other baby product - to the point where a new vehicle could actually be classed as a 'baby product'. When looking for a new car, first-time parents looked for reliability (31%) and safety (30%) whereas second-time parents heavily favoured safety (39%) and the need of a bigger car (26%).
Despite actually owning a car being a luxury when it comes to parenthood driving with a baby in the car seems to be very important with the majority of respondents driving often (a couple of times a week) or very often (5 days a week or more) with babies in the vehicle. Only 1% of our respondents said they never drove with their baby in the car despite having a car and being able to drive. It would also appear that the younger the parents the more likely they are to drive often which is interesting considering younger drivers are less comfortable driving (more on this later). This is contradicting with ours follow up question which asked how long did it take to be comfortable driving with older parents getting to the road sooner following a birth - for example, 9.1% of parents aged 18-24 were back driving straight away whereas 30% of parents aged 35-44 needing no time to get back behind the wheel. Interestingly, parents from central England were the quickest to get back on the road (31% answered 'straight away') with Northern Irish parents being the most apprehensive (9.1% said 'straight away').
Next, we took a look at the reasons people drive with their baby in the vehicle. Looking at all of the respondents, shopping (40%) was the most common reason parents drove with their child in the car followed by seeing family and friends (21%). This was pretty much consistent when we looked at genders, ages and locations. Lastly, we asked parents if they have ever driven their child specifically to soothe their baby without a destination to go to - 42% of all respondents said that they had with 52% of first-time parents saying they had. This section helped us get one step further into our potential suggestion that a car should be seen as a 'baby product' in the way as other products like bouncers etc - parents use the car very often and almost half of the respondents used a car as a tool to soothe their baby.
A baby is a precious cargo which should make most drivers drive more conservatively on the roads when they're in the vehicle. We wanted to know what is the main worry parents have when driving with their babies. When we looked at the results of all respondents it was clear that other drivers (22%) were the biggest concerns followed by crashing the car (19%) and making a mistake (17%). We've already covered first-time parents biggest worries but we wanted to break it down even further. When it came to comparing genders, the one biggest statistic which stood out is that women (18%) were twice as likely to be more worried about getting lost than males were (8%). When we looked at ages it was apparent that as parents became older and more experienced as both parents and drivers that they were less and less worried about being on the road. 0% of 18-24-year-olds said they were "not worried at all about driving with a child" whereas a whopping 25% of 55-64-year-olds said they were not worried.
In another interesting result from the survey is that the area you live and drive in impacts what your main concern is. Respondents from central England were most concerned with crashing the car. Those from the north of England were most concerned with other drivers, as were those from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. However, look to the south of England and it was making a mistake that was the biggest worry when driving with a child in the car.
We started off by asking a basic question about which kind of baby seat people used in their vehicles - standard car seat or ISOFIX with a base. Looking at all the respondents a standard car seat was more popular (57%). However, ISOFIX became more popular the older the parents were, for example, only 34% of 18-24-year-olds used an ISOFIX seat but 50% of parents aged 35 and up did. As a parent myself, I was intrigued to find out how people kept their baby calm during the journey. We asked if parents used any specific distractions if any at all - 89% of parents said they used some form of distractions while on their journey. The most commonly used distractions were talking to the baby (50%) and toys (47%). Only 11% used no distractions at all which suggest that babies aren't content just with the movement of the vehicle or that parents were not comfortable taking any chances for the risk of having a restless baby. Scottish parents are the most chatty drivers with 70% of respondents using talking as a distraction method. Babies from the north were the most likely to have music played to them while on a journey with 46% of respondents saying they used it as a distraction method.
Perhaps our most surprising find is that 1 in 4 drivers who had children in their car have had a road traffic accident. We felt that this number was relatively high when compared to the general population but perhaps there was a logical explanation as to why parents may be at a higher risk consider their lack of confidence driving (driving worries) and the obvious distraction in the car (talking to the baby). Interestingly, this statistic looks even more worrying as our findings show that 37% of 25-34-year-old parents of babies have had an accident while the baby was in the car. Unfortunately, we were not able to find any statistics of the general population to confirm our theories here. On a perhaps unrelated note, the risks of an accident are of course increased the more often you drive and with so many parents driving to soothe the baby and no other reason many could be putting themselves and the baby at unnecessary risk.
We’ve already touched on the fact that 66% of first time parents will buy a new car for the baby. However, it’s also worth noting that 40% of parents who already have children will be buy a new car also. This is a pretty huge percentage and one of the biggest market for car dealers, leasing brokers and all the rest to take notice of. But, who makes the decision?
Our second question was to establish who was the main decision maker in terms of getting a new car - 21% were single mothers 16% were single fathers, 31% of women were the main decision maker and had a partner and only 16% of males said they were the main decision maker in a relationship. Joint decisions were made 40% of the time. Of respondents in a relationship, 34% of men said they made the decisions whereas 21% of females said they did in the same question.
We wanted to find out what parents looked for in a new car and the results did flag up some interesting numbers. When we asked all parents, regardless of any demographics, what the most important feature of their new car was 30% said it was safety - which makes sense as they now have some very precious cargo to transport. However, attitudes change when we looked at first time parents versus seasoned pros. First time parents favoured reliability (31%) whilst parents of multiple children favoured safety (39%). This mirrors our previous comments that first time parents use their cars more often where reliability would be crucial to keep them on the road and the fact that second time parents are more concerned about crashing and other drivers than first time parents.