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How Distracting Are your Children While Driving?

Dan Brian   |  April 27, 2018   |  

The overall increase in car accidents in the United States has placed a spotlight on the issue of distracted driving. Too often there is a focus on teens or smartphones but there are many other distractions drivers have to deal with — like a parent tending to their child.

Parents don’t intentionally put their children in harm’s way but at the same time, they may be willing to tend to their child’s needs in the backseat despite it diverting their attention from the road.

However, unlike a text message or an email, the needs of children cannot always be ignored. Parents have a natural urge to help their children which makes it easy to understand how parents are willing to focus their eyes and attention on the back seat instead of the road.

One Mother’s Story

An Arizona mother told Parents Magazine that she regularly finds herself driving with her knees while she gives out breakfast and drinks in the car, settles arguments and even prevents vomit from flying across the car.

Although she’s able to handle these tasks very well, she questioned if her distracted driving was safe. “The worst part is that I had a cousin who died in a car crash (she was trying to get something off the floor for her child),” the mother said, “and it still hasn’t stopped me from making these bad choices.

This mother is not alone though. Many other parents don’t consider taking their eyes off the road to address their children’s demands as dangerous of a distraction as using a cell phone or GPS. However, there is research to suggest that theory is incorrect.

Parents, Your Children Can Be a Distraction

While it’s easy to see how cell phones have contributed to making the roads more dangerous, it is hard to see your own child as a distraction. Still, a vehicle is not the place to cater to every one of your child’s needs.

Too many parents fail to think this way, however. More than 36 percent of respondents to a survey on distracted driving released by NHTSA in 2013 admitted they interact with their children in the back seat on at least some trips. Another 13 percent admitted to doing on occasion. Over 51 percent claimed they never interact with their children while driving.

At the same time, 74 percent of the survey respondents declared they never read or send emails or text messages while driving.

Based on these results, it can be argued that many drivers don’t allow the obvious distractions like their cellphones to get in the way of their driving. But are not as acquainted with less apparent distractions, like children in the back seat.

Tips for Driving with Children

Children often can’t tend to their needs on their own. This is where parents come in. The issue here is that a moving vehicle complicates this relationship. Parents obviously want to attend to their children, but not by endangering them.

To help solve this puzzle, let’s review some recommendations by Consumer Reports on how parents can balance both driving and their children’s needs:

  1. Think ahead: More dangerous than glancing at the back seat or even the rear-view mirror is having to dig around for a snack or toy. You can avoid this situation by having everything your children need easily accessible.
  2. Pullover: Pulling over to address every one of your child’s desires could make your commute unnecessarily long. Depending on the road, it may also not be safe to continuously pull over. Parents are recommended to pull over only when it’s absolutely necessary and only when it is safe, such as a rest stop or parking lot.
  3. Educate kids on car safety: In addition to teaching your children how to cross the street or not to talk to strangers, you could educate them on car safety. Explain to your children that when they are in the car, it is important that they behave so adults are able to pay attention to the road. Otherwise, there could be an accident in which people get hurt.
  4. Keep your eyes on the road: Children tend to copy their parents, including driving habits. If you use your cell phone or allow other things to distract you, your child could see this and may emulate those behaviors when they become drivers. By avoiding distractions, you are not only keeping yourself and your children safe, you’re teaching them proper driving etiquette for the future.

What If I’m involved in an Accident?

The United States is a large country and not every driver will be as responsible as you are. Even if you avoid distractions, you can’t account for the behavior of other drivers.

If you or a loved one are injured in a car accident, we may be able to help. The attorneys at Riddle & Brantley work solely off a contingency fee meaning there is no upfront cost and you don’t pay unless there is a favorable outcome in your case.  Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case review.