Distracted driving is an increasing problem. Surprisingly enough, in spite of all the crazy and dangerous things people do while driving, kids in the car account for 12% of distracting activities.
When traveling at approximately 55 mph and you look back for just a second to check on a child, you might have traveled as much as 75 feet – with your eyes off the road.
Many parents say they feel obligated to address problems with their kids right away – calm fussy babies, break up fights, etc. But that can be dangerous.
So what can you do?
Set up car rules for the kids. Let them know that if they drop something during the ride, you will not be able to pick it up for them until you pull over and stop the car. Have snacks pre-packaged and ready to go should they need food during the ride. Have books and games easily accessible to them so you don’t have to assist in getting them to the kids.
Also, involve your children in conversations about driving. Ask kids how they think you should drive. Ask them what they think a good driver is and if they consider you a good driver.
Do they think you pay attention to signs and people walking or on bikes? Do you wait while people cross the street? Ask them what they think might make you a better driver.
Ask kids if they know why parents might take their eyes off the road – is it to use their phone, to put on makeup, or maybe the kids are fighting and the parents are trying to break it up? Ask your children to remind you to keep your eyes on the road if they see you doing something other than driving.
Share the facts with older kids: Drivers using cell phones are four times more likely to have a crash. Nearly 80% of all crashes were due to the driver not paying attention in the last 3 seconds before the incident.
You can even create a demonstration at home. Have a child ride a bike and set up obstacles (like a trash can or boxes) that they have to ride around and ask them what could happen if they weren’t paying attention or they looked away for a second. Could they have hit these items? They are traveling pretty slow on a bike, but a car moves very fast. This might help them understand the importance of paying attention while driving.
Enlist your kids in the process of safe driving and you will all enjoy a safer ride.
Cinda Seamon is the fire and life safety educator for Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue.