A new national study revealed that about half of adults text while driving when there are children in the vehicle.
In addition, the study, conducted by researchers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, shows one in three adults read text messages while driving and one in seven use social media.
Rodney Richardson, assistant chief of police at the Richmond Police Department, isn't surprised by those numbers.
"I'll pass cars and vehicles, and drivers won't even be looking at the road," Richardson said. "They'll have both hands on their phone and their elbows on the steering wheel.
"You get on the interstate, and you look around, and it's awful."
The study used an online sample of 760 adults in 47 states who had children between the ages of 4 and 10, and it collected data over a three-month period.
Richardson couldn't speak exactly to how many of the drivers he sees using cell phones had children in the car, but added that the numbers probably aren't too different around Richmond based on the number of drivers he notices using phones.
"Sometimes you can't see (children)," Richardson said. "We have noticed children in the car before, and a lot of people text while driving."
Richardson noted it's illegal to text and drive in Kentucky, and if officers see it, they do issue citations. He said it's normally apparent, because distracted drivers will drive off the road, or they'll overcorrect.
"You're going to cause an accident, or you're going to get yourself hurt or someone else hurt," he said. "I've seen it out there too much. Some accidents occur that could have completely been avoided if the drivers were paying attention."
Richardson also said when he responds to accidents, it's not too common a driver will admit to being distracted by a phone because they're aware it's illegal. However, he wasn't sure of the best way to combat the issue, given that people are aware it's illegal, have been cited for it and continue to drive while distracted.
He added there are apps people can download to their phones that will give automated responses to messages if the person is currently driving, and that could help some people.
The study also notes more research needs to be done to determine if the children in the car are influenced by their parents habits or not.
And while the study focused on driving and phone usage, it also looked at risky driving behaviors overall. The adults who admitted to cell phone usage were also likely to drink and drive, for example, or not use seat belts.
"The researchers saw a direct correlation between a history of driving under the influence and increased likelihood of all types of cell phone use while driving with children in the car," a news release states.
Richardson sums up the behavior as distracted driving in general, and he said using bluetooth or talk-to-text applications are just as bad, because messages don't normally come out the way the driver intended, so they'll start deleting and typing on their phone anyway.
"If there's an emergency, and you need to use your phone, pull over," he said. "There's a lot of distracted diving, and if you think about it, you're sitting in how much steel or aluminum? You could run over someone, hurt them or kill them.
"I wouldn't want to explain to someone's parents that their son or daughter was killed because they had to send a text message," Richardson said. "Don't text, just pay attention to the road. I wish people would concentration on the road."
For more information about the study, visit http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/697139/?sc=dwhn.
Reach Sara Kuhl at 624-6626; follow her on Twitter @saraekuhl.