You’ve become a pro at loading the kids in the car when you need to run errands. You’ve become so good at breaking up fights and handing out snacks that you barely need to take your eyes off the road. But would it surprise you to learn that children can divert as much attention from driving as texting or talking on a cellphone?
6 Tips to Stop Your Kids from Distracting You When You Drive
Sending a text message can take anywhere from four to nine seconds, more than enough time to send a vehicle off the road or into the back of another car. But a parent who reaches into the backseat to take objects from children or calm a crying infant can take a similar amount of time—and even if their eyes are on the road, their hands (and concentration) are with the kids.
Of course, it’s not possible to completely ignore your children while you’re driving. However, there are many things parents can do to reduce the risk of a distracted driving crash when kids are in the car:
- Feed the troops. Food and drinks are a common source of distraction for everyone in a car, but parents are often tasked with both handing out and cleaning up children’s food—often while still in control of the car. It’s a good idea to feed children a meal or snack before leaving the house and discourage eating and drinking in the car to avoid safety hazards (such as choking). While you’re at it, feed yourself at home to avoid low-blood-sugar or eating-while-driving accidents.
- Set strict rules. Before you set off, tell your kids what the rules of riding in the car are, and why they are important. Make sure they know what is “off the table,” including fighting, yelling, crying, or other behavior that can distract you from driving. Tell them when it is okay to ask for your attention, and reward them for playing by the rules.
- Don’t touch it! Children are not likely to learn that distraction is dangerous if you keep handing out and taking things with your “free” hand while driving. If a child tries to hand you an empty snack wrapper or asks you to fix a problem with the iPad, don’t take it. Instead, tell him he must wait until you stop.
- Don’t drop it! Parents are so used to picking up their child’s dropped toys and bottles, it can be a hard habit to break. Warn your children that anything they drop cannot be picked up until you park the car—and if you find yourself reaching back, put your hand back on the wheel!
- Long car trips. Stow games in the car for long trips, and encourage quiet activities. If your car has a DVD player for the back seat, make sure the kids can operate it without you, or wait until you stop to change discs.
- Get the kids involved. Kids are more likely to obey rules if they know that parents are accountable, too. Tell them that you’re not allowed to check your phone for texts or take a call unless you pull the car over first, and that it’s their job to remind you if you slip up.
A little prevention can keep you and your family safe, but why stop there? Share this article on Facebook or by email to help your friends work with their kids to reduce distractions on the road.