A recent survey of over 2,000 mothers of children under the age of two has showed a troubling number of women are making some dangerous decisions on the road - while their kids are in the backseat!
Here are some of the most common errors, and what we can do to change our behavior BEFORE accidents occur!
1. It's one thing to "multitask" when you're at work or home, it's another to drive distracted!
Nearly 75% of survey respondents said they're more stressed since they've had children, and most have trouble concentrating on one thing at a time. This same lack of concentration can be a key factor in life or death decision-making and driver reaction time. "It's become part of our culture to not just drive, but to drive and do 20 other things," says Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. Everything from applying makeup, checking texts and email, eating, or listening to music (Wiggles DVDs being played on high volume for our captive audience??) can make a driver preoccupied on what they shouldn't be concentrating on.
Here's an even scarier statistic - almost 8,000 accidents a day are caused by "distracted driving." Emails and makeup can wait for the parking lot! A mere 5 second distraction could end in a lifetime of regret. If your child gets upset, pull over! Driving while a 2 year old is in full tantrum mode is not only headache-inducing, but extremely unsafe.
2. "But I'm talking on my cell via Bluetooth, not texting. I can do that, right?"
Experts say a resounding NO. 78% of participants revealed they talk on the phone while driving with their children, and a whopping 26% admit to checking text or check email. All are unquestionably reckless. "Research shows you're four times more likely to have an accident when you talk on your cell, even hands-free," says David Strayer, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and a leading researcher on car accidents and distracted driving. "That's the same risk as driving drunk," he adds. "When you text or email, your odds of having a crash shoot up eightfold, making it twice as risky as drunk driving. It's ironic, because if you ask moms if they'd ever drink and drive with their baby in the car, they'd say to you, 'Absolutely not!' But people don't consider cellphone use to be equally, if not more, dangerous." "Driving is a multitasking activity, before you add the phone," Dr. Durbin says. Research shows that when we are speaking, we miss half the visual stimuli in our vision - (brake lights, stop signs, pedestrians). In order to drive safe, turn off your ringer and notifications, and place your phone in the backseat so you won't be tempted to talk. Out of sight, out of mind!
3. New mothers get less sleep than truck drivers!
Here's a scary thought. New mothers are averaging 5 hours and 20 minutes of sleep a night. That's a full hour and a half less than the 6 hours and 50 minutes truckers average, according to the National Sleep Foundation. With multiple feedings in the middle of the night, and calming our children after a bad dream, it's no wonder moms are exhausted; BUT it's important for them to realize they shouldn't get behind the wheel! "Just one night on such little rest will slow your reaction time behind the wheel," Dr. Strayer says. Though many moms think they can handle their car after that first cup of coffee, a fatigued individual is likely to drift into a brief three- to four-second episode of sleep in traffic without even realizing it. And those seconds can be the difference between life or death!
"I had to pull over once because I was literally falling asleep with my 3-month-old son, Nicholas, in the back," says Larysa DiDio, who lives in Pleasantville, New York. "I kept veering off the road and slapping my face to stay awake. So I found a shady spot in the back of a Kmart parking lot, cracked the windows and locked the doors, and the baby and I napped! I remember thinking, Should I be sleeping here?" In answer? ABSOLUTELY!! 56,000 crashes a year are attributed to those who are sleep-deprived, according to the NHTSA. And as with distracted driving, the risk of having an accident is the same as when driving drunk. A cup or two of coffee or tea can help temporarily with a good shot caffeine, but nothing beats proper rest and a good night's sleep. If you start to feel you are drifting off, pull over to the nearest parking lot or shopping center. Those few minutes of rest and revitalization can be a life saver!
4. New mothers have an accident rate that equals that of teen drivers!
Almost 10% of new moms said they've been in an accident while driving with their baby. This may sound like a low number, but the rate is nearly THREE TIMES that of the general population. "It's on the order of the accident rate of teen drivers--a group we think of as particularly at risk," Dr. Durbin says. A possible cause? Looking backwards. Many mothers admit to turning around to check on their toddlers in the backseat while they are driving. "I find that alarming," Dr. Strayer says. "Taking your eyes off the road, even for two seconds, increases your risk of an accident. In that time, a car going 55 miles per hour will travel 176 feet, about half the length of a football field, with no one really piloting it."
Too often mothers forget they are driving a several ton vehicle moving at high velocity. Whatever your child is carrying on about in the backseat can wait until you're stopped safely at a red light, or pulled over to the nearest parking lot.
5. Child safety seats aren't being properly installed.
58% of new moms admit they find installing their babies' carseats to be a challenge. Even worse? Most don't ask for help! Six in 10 said they haven't had their baby's child-safety seat checked by a child-passenger safety technician. When used properly, a child-safety seat can reduce fatalities among infants by 71 percent, according to the NHTSA, yet THREE OUT OF FOUR of these seats are not being used correctly. "I've been in this field for 26 years, and I can tell you that parents are making the same mistakes today they were making years ago, even though the products are better," says Lorrie Walker, training manager for Safe Kids Worldwide. "It's amazing to me, because riding in the car is the single greatest health risk your child will face until adulthood."
The website SeatCheck.org can help you find a safety inspection facility in your area that can offer you free installation of your child safety seat. You also should take advantage of your manufacturer's Hotline, and websites, where you can find manuals. "Parents never read the directions--they think, How hard can it be?" Walker says. "But you never want to someday say, 'I wish I had.' " The seat should be secure enough in the car that you can't move it back and forth more than an inch. Be sure to also remember that all seats should be rear-facing until the age of 2. Once your child is buckled in, make sure to tighten the straps until there is no excess strap for you to pinch at the shoulders.
6. Never Leave Your Child Unattended
Eight percent of mothers admit to leaving their babies unattended in the car to run into a store for a quick errand, yet the only acceptable number is ZERO. "Even a few minutes in the car can be dangerous," Carr says. Children's bodies don't regulate temperature as well as adults'. And it's not just in the summer. A child's body temperature can plummet fast on frigid mornings, or quickly rise to unsafe, possibly deadly, levels on even mild days when they are left in a vehicle.
"I've seen it happen time and again," Carr says. "These aren't careless parents. They're solid, loving parents who just forget."
Besides the horror stories we have seen far too often on the news of babies being left in hot cars for just "a few minutes" while their parents rush into a store, many carjackings occur when the motor is running, and/or keys are still in the ignition. Criminals aren't checking the backseat before they take off with your precious cargo, but you should!
Remember, no matter the circumstance, there is never an excuse to leave your child unattended in a vehicle.
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