Almost a third of parents admit to ‘hands free’ steering to keep kids awake in the car

  • Celebrity mum, Binky Felstead, urges parents to be ultra careful if their child falls asleep in the car: “I’m backing Churchill’s danger naps campaign to remind all parents don’t take your hands off the wheel
  • Almost a third (30 per cent) of parents have taken their hands off the wheel to try and stop a child napping in the car, with 10 per cent doing so in the last week
  • On average if a child falls asleep in the car it pushes their bedtime back almost an hour
  • Baby Shark by Pink Fong is parents ‘go to’ track to try and keep their child awake if they look like they are about to danger nap in the car

Almost a third (30 per cent) of parents with young child admit to taking their hands off the wheel when driving, to prevent their child napping in the car, reveals new research from Churchill1. Parents are adopting dangerous driving behaviours, by stroking or tickling their child when driving, to avoid the dreaded ‘danger nap’ when a child sneaks a sleep that disrupts their usual bed or naptime. On average if a child falls asleep in the car it pushes their bedtime back almost an hour2, by 54 minutes, which can be disruptive and can impact their temperament and behaviour the next day.

One in ten (10 per cent) parents of a young child have taken their hands off the steering wheel, with potential dangerous consequences, to stop their offspring napping in just the last week. Almost half (49 per cent) of parents actively try to keep their children from sleeping in the car.

Drivers caught by the police without their hands on the wheel could be prosecuted for ‘not being in proper control of a motor vehicle’. If convicted of the offence drivers would receive three points on their licence and a £100 fine. However, if the case if referred to a Magistrates Court they could face a significantly higher fine and even risk being disqualified from driving altogether.

Some parents are taking huge safety risks when driving because they are concerned about the impact of unplanned naps on their children’s schedule and behaviour if they fall asleep in the car.  The so-called car ‘danger nap’ sees over a third (38 per cent) of children going to sleep later than their usual bedtime. Falling asleep in the car means almost a fifth (19 per cent) of children are upset for the rest of the day, crying and unsettled. It also can impact a child’s appetite, with 18 per cent of parents saying if a child falls asleep in the car they don’t eat properly for the rest of the day.

Binky Felstead, Celebrity mum, said: “I know how frustrating it can be when your child falls asleep in the car, which can spoil their routine for the rest of the day and leave them terribly upset. I’m backing Churchill’s campaign, to remind all parents don’t take your hands off the wheel, if your child is falling asleep, it isn’t worth the risk for your family’s safety or other people on the road.  Try singing, playing music, or lowering the temperature to keep the little ones awake. The safety risks of taking your hands off the wheel to raise your child if asleep in the car just aren’t worth it.”

More than one in ten (11 per cent) of parents admit to taking their eyes off the road if they are concerned their child is falling asleep in the car. Techniques parents use to keep their children awake in the car also include singing them a song (30 per cent) and making silly noises (30 per cent). Parents also rely on screen time to help, with almost a quarter (24 per cent) using phones and tablets to keep their children awake. Other techniques include opening car windows (23 per cent) to let fresh air into the vehicle as a pick me up for the child or lowering the temperature via the aircon (12 per cent).  

Table One: Techniques parents use to keep their child awake in the car

Techniques used to keep children awake

Percentage of parents who use this technique

Took hands of the wheel

30 per cent

Singing them a song

30 per cent

Made silly noises

30 per cent

Played music

28 per cent

Given them something to watch on the ipad / iphone while driving

24 per cent

Opened windows (other than child’s)

23 per cent

Opened child’s window

16 per cent

Shouted

14 per cent

Lowered the temperature with the air con

12 per cent

Turned the aircon to full

9 per cent

Source: Churchill Car Insurance

Over a quarter (28 per cent) of parents play music to keep their child awake in the car in attempt to avoid the dreaded danger nap. Of those parents that play music, the most popular song used to keep children awake is the insanely catchy “Baby Shark” by PINKFONG (36 per cent), followed by the Disney classic "Let It Go" by Idina Menzel in Frozen (26 per cent). Other ‘go to’ wake up tracks for parents include “Happy" by Pharrell Williams (24 per cent), "Firework" by Katy Perry (22 per cent). and “Can’t stop the feeling” by Justin Timberlake (15 per cent).

Nicholas Mantel, Churchill motor lead, said: “Being a parent can be incredibly rewarding but also incredibly stressful, everyone who has been a parent knows how frustrating it can be if a young child falls asleep and risks disrupting their nap or bedtime. However, parents that take their hands off the wheel to keep their child awake risk their own safety, that of their child and others on the roads. They also face the real risk of prosecution, which can bring with it significant costs and potentially risk working opportunities if people have a criminal record.”

Regional findings

 More than half (55 per cent) of parents of young children in London take their hands off the car steering wheel to keep their child awake. These parents are taking an incredible risk with their safety and that of others. Other risky areas for parents driving ‘hands free’ include the North East (36 per cent), North West (34 per cent) and Scotland (29 per cent).

Table two: Regional breakdown of parents of young children who table their hands off the wheel to keep them awake in the car 

Region

Percentage of parents who take their hands off the wheel to keep their child awake  

London

55 per cent

North East

36 per cent

North West

34 per cent

Scotland

29 per cent

East of England

28 per cent

Yorkshire and Humberside

26 per cent

East Midlands

25 per cent

South East

22 per cent

West Midlands

19 per cent

South West

15 per cent

Source: Churchill Car Insurance

 

                                                                        ENDS

 

Notes to Editor

 

1 Churchill commissioned an Opinium Survey of 1002 UK adults with children under the age of 12 undertaken between 27th – 29th June 2023. Results have been weighted to be nationally representative

 2 Churchill commissioned an Opinium Survey of 1000 UK adults with children under the age of 12 undertaken between 7th – 13th June 2023. Results have been weighted to be nationally representative.

 

For further information please contact:

Hayley Saunders

Churchill PR Manager

Email: [email protected]

 

Churchill

Founded in 1989, Churchill is now one of the UK's leading providers of general insurance, offering car, home, travel and pet insurance cover over the phone or on-line.

Churchill general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.  

Churchill and U K Insurance Limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.  

Customers can find out more about Churchill products or get a quote by calling 0300 200 300 or visiting www.churchill.com.