Driving to Distraction

Woman driver laughing on her mobile phone

Here’s a stat that made me laugh out loud—actually laugh, not LOL, which is code for “smiled a bit”: Child passengers are four times more distracting than adult passengers.

“No kidding” I thought. Actually the language was a bit stronger, but swearing like a sailor is something I have worked to curb since becoming the mother of children who can repeat things. But aside from being blindingly obvious to those of us who often drive with a screaming, kicking, too hot, too cold, I’m hungry carseat WWE match in the back seat, it is a cause for reflection.

For all the awareness that has been raised regarding the dangers of distracted driving, there isn’t much we can do about the minis that need rides to school and skating and tae kwon do.

So what’s a concerned parent to do? We need to limit the distractions we can control. When faced with facts like 20-30% of car accidents involve driver distraction, or that distracted drivers are 3 times more likely to be in a crash, the choice to put your cell in your purse and put your purse out of reach is easy to make.

My five year old is at the stage of development where he is very concerned with The Rules. “Is that one of The Rules, Mom?” “Tell me The Rules.” I may be taking advantage of this a bit. But it also helps me focus and define things that are important in our house, and in the car.

Here are some of The Rules we are adopting. They might be good for you too!

  • No cell phone in the car: Talking on a handheld device increases the likelihood of a crash or near crash event 4 to 5 times. Texting increases it 23 times. Just pretend it’s seven years ago and you don’t even know how to text.
  • If you drop it, too bad: Reaching for a moving object increases the risk of a crash/near crash 9 times. Teach your kids that if they drop something they have to wait until you have stopped to get it back. Despite evidence to the contrary, your child will not die without his Batman figurine.
  • You are beautiful without lipstick: Your pucker doesn’t need to be lacquered right now. Put your make up on in the parking lot.

As parents, we make certain lifestyle changes (witness the rig pig vocabulary change.) We quit smoking, we stop drinking when we are pregnant, we eat more healthfully and at regular-ish intervals. We do this because we want to keep the most precious things in our life as safe as possible. In the car is no exception.

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