Okay, so maybe taking her 3-week-old baby on a “Target run” wasn’t the best idea to begin with, but Shaun Dreisbach’s “bad mommy moment” was about to get worse:
I started down the aisle, ticking off my list, when I realized: Oh my God, Campbell’s not here. Where is she?
I raced outside. Sure enough, I’d left her in the car. A hot car. I was horrified with myself. But she was so quiet back there–and I was just so tired–that I’d spaced out. She was dozing peacefully, but it was a huge eye-opener for me: Protecting my child is my first priority, yet there I was, driving her around when I was exhausted and unfocused. Judging by the results of our survey, a whole lot of you can relate.
A new survey from American Baby and Safe Kids Worldwide of nearly 2,400 new moms found that 8% admitted to leaving toddlers unattended in a car while running an errand. Dreisbach has a simple solution:
Never leave your baby alone in the car. To avoid a calamity, put something on the backseat, like your cellphone, that you’ll need when you arrive. Trust me, it works!
That would also resolve another problem this poll found: 78% of moms talk on their phones while driving with their kids, and 26% text or check emails. Dreisbach suggests turning off your phone and keeping it on the back seat so you are not tempted to look at it. She spoke to two experts who explained why it’s important to lose that very tempting distraction:
“Research shows you’re four times more likely to have an accident when you talk on your cell, even hands-free,” says David Strayer, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and a leading researcher on car accidents and distracted driving. “That’s the same risk as driving drunk,” he adds. “When you text or email, your odds of having a crash shoot up eightfold, making it twice as risky as drunk driving. It’s ironic, because if you ask moms if they’d ever drink and drive with their baby in the car, they’d say to you, ‘Absolutely not!’ But people don’t consider cellphone use to be equally, if not more, dangerous.”
At home and work, you may thrive on multitasking, but that approach doesn’t belong on the road. None of us are good at doing several things at once, and “driving is a multitasking activity, before you add the phone,” Dr. Durbin says. Studies show that when we start chatting, our brains miss half the visual information (brake lights, stop signs, pedestrians) we need to see to drive safely.
Government statistics indicate that, on average, 8,000 traffic accidents per day are caused by distracted driving. Dreisbach says many can be prevented by pulling over to the side of the road, or into a parking lot, to attend to a backseat child in need. Just don’t try to make up for lost time, which leads to much more risk:
In our poll, 55 percent of moms admit to driving above the speed limit to make it to day care or to get home with their wailing baby faster. “But adding speed to situations when you’re not focused is scary–the risk of an accident isn’t worth the few minutes you might save,” Dr. Durbin says. Repeat after us: It’s okay to be late for that pediatrician appointment.
“I get plenty of sleep every night,” said no parent, ever. Driving drowsy is about as dangerous as driving drunk. In fact, distracted and drowsy driving are one reason why accident rates of new moms in this survey were 3 times higher than the general population and about the same as the teen accident rate. And there is more:
Another bad habit is that we rush around town on autopilot, figuring that it’s familiar turf. In fact, “half of crashes that involve children occur within 10 miles of the kid’s home, on the everyday trips moms make,” says Dr. Durbin. “There’s a lot to contend with on local roads–intersections, lights, turn lanes, driveways–even more than on highways.”
Read “6 Dangerous Driving Mistakes Moms Make” in Parents here.