As a parent, you want to set a great example for your children. You know that distracted driving is a major source of risk on the road, so you make a point of never using your phone while in the vehicle with your children. You always input your destination location while stopped in your driveway or pulled off onto the shoulder of the road.
You believe that you have eliminated the possibility of a distracted driving crash, but you may actually be overconfident. The unfortunate truth is that for parents, the most consistent and significant source of distraction is not technology but rather the very children that they want to protect.
Children force parents to split their attention
Parents will admit to researchers that they engage in very unsafe behaviors when they have their children in the car, such as making eye contact with them through the rearview mirror instead of looking at the road, reaching to pick up a dropped toy or handing the child a snack.
Parents will also have intense conversations with their children and intervene in arguments with the kids. They may also try to operate or troubleshoot entertainment systems while the vehicle is in motion. Any of these actions would take a driver’s mental focus off of the road. Many of these tasks also involve taking at least one of their hands off of the wheel or looking elsewhere than the front of their vehicle.
Although it can be difficult to establish firm boundaries with children on long rides, it is crucial that parents recognize that their children are a dangerous source of distraction and seek to avoid focusing on the kids instead of the road so that everyone arrives safely.
Preparation is key for minimizing distraction
Having a few extra minutes while getting ready for your next ride could be the difference between succumbing to distraction with your kids in the vehicle and remaining focused on the road. From giving the children bags with their snacks before you strap them into their seats to setting up entertainment options while still in your driveway, there are many ways for you to minimize the possibility of your children being a distraction that puts all of you at risk on the road.
Identifying and actively countering risk factors for motor vehicle collisions will help you arrive safely with your children.