Distracted driving is one of the greatest dangers you’ll encounter on the road. It accounted for 3,142 fatalities in 2019. Texting while driving and talking on the phone are certainly high on the list of possible distractions; however, there could be pint-sized disruptions in your own backseat.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, “Passengers are one of the most frequently reported causes of distraction, with young children being four times more distracting than adults and infants being eight times more distracting.” Australian researchers found that children were even more distracting, up to 12 times so, than talking on a cellphone while driving. Additionally, they found that the average parent takes their gaze off the road for as long as three minutes and 22 seconds during a 16-minute trip. That’s a staggering amount of time. As we hit back-to-school season, many of us are transporting kids more than ever, particularly in a family-friendly city like Rio Rancho. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what you need to know about staying safe while transporting children.
Anything that takes your eyes off the road for more than two seconds clocks as a hazard. Even quick glances away from the road can cause a domino effect that leads to accidents since it takes the average driver about .25 seconds to spot a hazard, another .25 seconds to respond, and another three seconds to engage the brakes. There’s no end to the list of reasons that kids could cause drivers to divert their gaze. These might include:
- Soothing a fussy baby
- Helping a child eat or drink in the vehicle, or opening packaging
- Digging snack or juice boxes out of a purse or tote bag
- Dealing with spills
- Retrieving dropped toys, snacks, or drinks
- Breaking up fights between siblings
- Replacing a DVD for a backseat infotainment system
- Tuning into a backseat infotainment system that’s too loud or is otherwise sidetracking
Running late because of children can also lead to parents trying to multitask in the car, such as putting on makeup or catching up on texts or emails. In this case, kids are still the root cause of a secondary form of distracted driving.
Here are a few strategies to help you minimize the distractions your kids can, even unintentionally, cause.
1. Be prepared.
Before you travel with kids in the car, even for school drop off, gather items you need to have on hand. Distribute snacks and juice boxes before you get on the road. Put all toys within easy reach.
2. Make them wait.
As difficult as it can be, make sure your kids understand that you can’t help because you are driving. They need to wait until you can pull over or get to your destination. Stoplights aren’t a good opportunity to help because your foot can easily fall off the break and cause you to roll into the intersection.
3. Keep your eyes forward.
Resist the urge to take your eyes off the road and look back. It only takes a moment to cause an accident.
4. Pull over.
If your child urgently needs something, find a safe spot to pull over. If he/she is crying and/or having a tantrum, trying to drive while this is going on is a distraction in itself. Take the time to pull over and address your child’s needs. It’s always better to be a few minutes late to your destination and arrive safely than not at all. It’s safest to get off the highway and/or pull into a parking lot. You could accidentally be hit or encounter other hazards if you simply pull over to the side of the road.
5. Use mirrors.
If your child is riding in a rear-facing child seat, attach a mirror to the head restraint so you can monitor them in their seat.
6. Set clear boundaries.
Your kids can participate in driving safely, too. Educate them on the importance of you paying attention to the road to keep everyone safe. If they know you can’t or won’t react to their needs, they won’t expect a response.
7. Distract your children.
Engaging your children in games or songs will keep them content during your travels. In cars that have backseat screens, infotainment systems can be helpful as well, as long as you’re not wrestling with putting in a new DVD or starting a new show while trying to drive.
8. Team up.
If you’re able to drive with another adult passenger in the car, assign him/her childcare duties. Let this passenger attend to any of the children’s needs so you can stay focused on driving.
9. Take frequent stops.
If you’re going to drive for an extended period of time, such as during a road trip, plan to take breaks. Allow your kids to run around and play to burn off excess energy with the hope that when they return to the car, they’ll ride more contentedly.
These tips will help keep you, and your precious cargo, safe.
How Sanchez and Piñon Can Help
If you’ve been part of a distracted driving accident caused by children in vehicles, whether yours or someone else’s, contact Sanchez and Piñon, Rio Rancho’s auto accident and injury attorneys, for a free consultation. While other attorneys talk, we listen and provide a personal level of representation. We can discuss how to fight for the compensation you deserve.