New mothers aren't immune to the dangers of distracted driving. In fact, with the demands of driving with a newborn baby on board, new moms may be among the most distracted drivers on the road.
A recent survey of new moms that was conducted by American Baby and Safe Kids Worldwide points out how prevalent distracted driving is among new moms. The key evidence is that while the majority of moms surveyed said they are being more cautious in their driving habits since the birth of their child, their answers to other survey questions implies the direct opposite.
In short, new moms are driving while fatigued (sleeping an average of 5 hours, 20 minutes per night), not paying attention to the speed limit, turning around to tend to the baby, three out of four moms are using their phones to text or call or read messages or emails, and doing other kinds of distracted behavior – all with baby on board.
Worse yet is the statistic that almost 10 percent of new moms surveyed had an accident with their baby while driving. That’s nearly three times the rate in the general population.
How to get around this problem is a complex matter, but a variety of experts, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Parents Magazine, and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, recommend these tips to help new moms avoid dangerous driving behavior:
Keep eyes on the road. The cardinal rule while driving is that you keep your eyes on the road at all times. When driving, that’s the activity that has to claim the driver's full attention and focus.
No texting, taking calls, checking email. The survey results showed that 78 percent of new moms talk on the phone while driving with baby on board and that 26 percent check email or text. Keep in mind that no message, text or call is worth jeopardizing baby’s life, the driver's, or anyone else who is driving on the road or a pedestrian in and around the car's field of travel.
Multi-tasking is not your friend. There is a time and a place for everything and driving in the car is not the place to juggle multiple tasks.
Pick the right time to do errands. The best way to avoid the dangerous behavior of being distracted by a crying baby is to pick the right time to do errands.
Enlist help. Obviously there will be times when it is absolutely necessary to go out and do something that requires driving to get there. If possible, ask a friend or neighbor to watch the baby.
Eliminate distractions. Besides having baby in the car, there are numerous other distractions that can and will seek to grab the driver's attention. Succumbing to distraction increases the danger quotient. As much as possible, eliminate all the distractions that take concentration away from the road and driving safely.
No eating or drinking behind the wheel. Keep hands on the wheel and concentration on the task at-hand: driving. Save eating and drinking for at home, destination or when safely parked.
No turning around to tend to baby. The tendency to immediately turn to tend to a crying child may only take a few seconds, but can result in tragedy. Instead of risking disaster, pull off the road, where and when it is safe to do so, and tend to baby then.
Get some more shut-eye. Many new moms have a serious lack of sleep, winding up feeling exhausted most of the time. Take frequent naps, when possible, but don’t get behind the wheel without sufficient sleep the night before.
Watch speed. It’s hard to be observant and adhere to speed limits and other traffic signs and signals when distracted by thoughts of what needs to be done and places yet to go. That few extra seconds saved by speeding won’t make that much of a difference in the time at home, but it can make the difference between life and death on the road.
Bottom line: Having a new baby is an exciting time, an opportunity for new mom and baby to grow together and share love and meaningful experiences. Part of the responsibility of a new parent to this child is to exercise caution and use good judgment when driving with baby in the car.