Survey reveals people actually drive more carefully carrying pavlova than their own children

New research has found that drivers take more care when carrying a fragile pavlova than when they are transporting their own children.

The data comes from a study of 1000 Australians performed by YouGov Galaxy and NRMA Insurance and was published by News Corp.

Half of all the parents who took part in the study said that they drive more carefully when carting their offspring around, with only 12 per cent saying that they do the same when carrying fragile cargo such as a pavlova.

When the participants were tested, however, the results were very different.

95 per cent of drivers showed an improvement in their driving skills when transporting the much-loved Kiwi dessert in comparison to driving a child or on their own.

65 per cent improved their acceleration, 60 per cent braked more cautiously and half cornered better.

45 per cent used their mobile phone less and 20 per cent improved their speed.

The survey forms the basis of a new road safety TV campaign across the ditch.

Consumer psychologist Dr Adrian Camilleri told News Corp the drivers' behaviour could be explained by the fact they were not driving on "autopilot".

"These drivers had a cake in the car, it's a bit out of the ordinary and it is likely to snap people out of an autopilot mode," he said.

"When people first learn to drive, it's a skill that requires a lot of attention, but as we become more experienced we go into autopilot.

"We form habits and driving with children to and from work or home can be part of that."

The survey found 72 per cent of drivers rate themselves as above-average drivers, but few were willing to admit to bad habits such as eating while driving (27 per cent) and speeding off first at traffic lights (26 per cent).

A quarter of respondents said they take their eyes off the road to deal with children fighting in the back seat.

Camilleri said statistically, not everyone can claim they drive better than others on the road.

"I would imagine the numbers here are underestimated when it came to people who don't want to admit to being distracted with their kids or phone at a traffic light," he said.

"Taking your eye off the road for two seconds can result in an accident, and that's concerning."

This article was first published on the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.