If you are a parent, you know your reality–you are constantly on the run. That means micromanaging almost everything all of the time. You can micromanage to your heart’s content but you have to remember to put the tasking on hold when you are behind the wheel of a car–especially while driving a car full of kids.
Your first priority while driving should be the safety of you and your passengers. Also important is that you set a good example for teens so they can start modeling their driving habits after yours.
According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involve some form of driver distraction. What’s more alarming is that the distractions occur up to three seconds before the vehicle crash!
With that in mind, here is a countdown of things parents do while driving that should trigger that nagging voice to pay attention to the road:
10.) They Adjust the Radio. Multiple requests coming from the backseat for “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)” When it comes to adjusting the dials of your in-car sound system, you have choices:
- Adjust your car stereo to the station or setting you want before you begin to drive
- Take advantage of normal stops to adjust your stereo
- Ask a passenger to adjust it for you.
Channel or song surfing is not worth you or your passengers’ lives!
9.) They Pay Attention to Fido. A loose pet in a moving car is dangerous. Make sure your precious BFF is properly secured in a pet carrier, portable kennel, or specially designed pet harness while you’re driving. Never allow your pet to sit in your lap while you are behind the wheel.
8.) They Watch a Video. Common sense tells you that if all distracted driving crashes happen three seconds after being distracted, shifting your visual attention toward a video while driving is NOT the safest choice. For now, different states have different laws regarding video screen restrictions, but following your instincts to forgo watching a Tony Robbins (or Dora) video until you get home is your safest option.
7.) They Use a Navigation System. Heading out to a play date and don’t know the way? Think twice about using your phone for directions. California is one example of a state that has banned the use of all functions of a smart phone while driving, including GPS. The court ruling states that using your phone in any way while driving is illegal. However, some cars still have touch-based navigation systems built in, which are legal. While one recent study determined that even hands-free use of a phone is dangerous, your safest choice right now is using a voice-controlled tracking system so you don’t have to take your hands off the wheel.
6.) They Read (Including Maps). Concentrating on reading anything, including texts, maps or directions, takes your eyes off the road long enough to put you and your passengers in danger. Read what you need to before you begin to drive, while you are at a stoplight, or pull over to the side of the road.
5.) They Groom Themselves. A recent survey discussed by doctors at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich., showed that nearly 70 percent of parent drivers admitted to primping while driving. Tip: Your hair, face and the makeup applied to it will still be there when your vehicle comes to a complete stop!
4.) They Talk to Passengers. In this case, it would most likely be talking to your kids! Taking your mind off the road by giving directives to the kiddos or communicating with them by looking in the rear view mirror are dangerous activities that take your focus off the road. Tell your mini passengers beforehand about your expectations to keep conversation to a minimum while driving, and keep them busy with quiet activities. Anything else unsaid can be discussed when the wheels stop turning.
3.) They Eat and Drink. Okay so the fast-food ads for the double cheesy, yummy burger got the best of everyone and you’re pulling into the drive through. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reminds drivers that they are not just eating—they are opening packages, reaching, leaning, spilling, wiping and cleaning themselves and their kids. You, your kids and your burgers can find a better place to hang out together. Try pulling over at the nearest park, bee-lining it to your house, or eating with friends at their house (hey, even the fast-food parking lot will do!).
2.) They Daydream. A recent study by the Erie Insurance Group found that one in 10 fatal crashes were attributed to driver distraction, and 62 percent were blamed on daydreaming. It’s important to keep your eyes and mind on the road. Some tips to keep you alert are:
- Keep your eyes moving. Change your gaze every two seconds so you don’t get “the stares.”
- Interact with your environment by imagining “what-if” scenarios. “What if that truck merges into my lane?” “What if I get off at this exit instead of the next?” These questions feed your subconscious with valuable data that keeps you alert.
- Chew something. Chewing keeps you alert (and hey, if it’s gum it can make your teeth whiter and your breath fresher).
- Try different routes. New routines keep your mind working and alert, avoiding the doldrums that can sometimes set in with routines.
1.) They Use a Cell Phone. For Anything. Okay, some people still need to be reminded that being on your phone in any capacity while driving is dangerous—not to mention illegal in most states. The facts speak for themselves. Engaging in visual-manual subtasks such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting increases the risk of getting into a crash by 300 percent. Studies have shown that driving performance is lowered and the level of distraction is higher for drivers engaging in cell phone conversations. It’s not worth risking your life, the lives of your children, or the lives of pedestrians. Turn the phone off and put it in the glove compartment. As the public awareness campaign from AT&T states, “It Can Wait.”