Distracted Driving as a Parent

Distracted Driving as a Parent

Georgia recently enacted a “hands-free” driving law to prevent crashes caused by cell phone usage behind the wheel. But what about the distraction in the back seat? How often have you done something reckless behind the wheel to pacify your child? A study from the Monash University Accident Research Center now confirms the risks parents have known for years. Driving with children is 12 times more dangerous than texting and driving. When researchers installed cameras in the cars of 12 families over a three-week period, they found talking on the phone only accounted for one percent of distractions. Distractions from children, meanwhile, accounted for 12 percent of all distractions (reported by MedicalDaily.com).

Over the course of an average 16-minute trip, parents that had kids present spent three minutes and 22 seconds with their eyes not on the road. Drivers take their eyes off the road most often to look at their child behind them, either fully turning their heads or looking in the mirror. Parents are also guilty of reaching in the back seat or handing back snacks and drinks. Although it may seem like common sense, just keep your eyes on the road, it may be a hard task to accomplish.


No Fuss Car Rule:

From the get-go, let your child know you are not able to cater to them during a car ride. Ask your child what he needs before getting behind the wheel, set up any electronics, open any snacks and offer a bathroom break. If you have an infant, consider pacifier leashes and multiple soft toys to keep them entertained during the trip. Enacting and enforcing this rule from an early age will teach your child to be independent during travel.

Secure Children First:

Oftentimes parents are rushing to arrive at their destination. With this rush, parents may rely on children to buckle up. Noticing your child is unbuckled mid-trip is unsafe and can result in a major distraction. Spend the extra few minutes to secure your children and confirm correct usage of restraints. This is also a good time to verify your child has anything needed for the journey: toys, opened drinks, snacks, etc.

Keep the Peace:

Unfortunately, car manufacturers have yet to install privacy walls to separate children in the back seat. If your children are constantly bickering in the back, consider adding a line with painter’s tape to identify each child’s space. Also, become firm with pulling over during a bickering match. Your children will eventually realize they will not get to their destination without the peace, so enacting a clear “quiet rule” can reduce any distractions.

Pull Over:

Whether you are pulling over to grab a pacifier your infant dropped or to extinguish an argument, just do it. Always remember safety is your sole priority during a car trip. Drivers often forget that it only takes one mistake on the road to change your life permanently; you don’t get a “do-over.” So, even if you are going to be terribly late to your destination, pull over and safely handle the distraction in the back seat. After awhile, your frustrations and the delays will wear on your children too, and they will become better backseat passengers.

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