According to a poll of 2,000 new moms, nearly 10% of them had been in a collision while driving with their baby. Experts say that’s on par with teen drivers, widely considered the driving population with the highest crash risk.
I recently went on a drive with a close friend and her one-year-old son. I sat in back with the baby because, well, there’s no captive audience like a baby in a car seat. How often do you get to fully let loose your arsenal of goofy faces and stream-of-consciousness sing-songs? For me, the answer is clearly not often enough.
In the middle of a song about a goat and a flower peddler, I turned my head away from the baby for a split second. And the next thing we knew, a siren was wailing in our ears.
My friend, the driver, jumped and looked around frantically for the emergency vehicle. There was nothing in sight. There was, however, a mischievous-faced baby waving a fire engine toy and shrieking with excitement.
By nature, staying focused while driving with a baby takes even more awareness than ordinary driving. Here are some steps parents can take to be safe on the road.
Invest in a proper car seat.
According to the NHTSA, a car seat reduces an infant’s risk of fatal injury by 71%.
Every province has unique car seat laws and they are updated quite frequently. Nova Scotia, for example, updated its car seat laws as recently as 2012 according to local law experts. Those experts suggest checking in on regulations regularly, to be sure you’re in compliance with the most current laws. You’ll find resources to do so throughout this article.
If there is one area not to skimp on, the car seat is it. And it doesn’t stop there. It is also imperative to ensure that the car seat is properly installed and follows all the car seat laws in your province. The legal requirements vary from region to region, but the bottom line is to do whatever it takes to keep the baby safe.
Driving time isn’t play time.
Unless you like the shock of toy sirens distracting you from the road, make sure that certain toys are out of reach. Hard toys and ones that make a lot of distracting noise (thanks Aunt Katie) just aren’t right for the car.
Soft toys though — like stuffed animals and cloth books — can make for great distractions. Just be sure that the toys you offer the baby won’t require your attention or supervision. You need to be focused on the road.
Get a baby mirror.
Babies like to look around. And we like to look at our babies. At first thought, it would seem that backward facing car seats throw a wrench in all that. But all you need is a baby mirror mounted on the headrest of the backseat. It’s the perfect glance and check-in tool.
That being said, it’s important not to stare at your gorgeous, peacefully sleeping little one for more than an instant. Eyes on the road.
Even when the baby starts crying, experts suggest that staying focused on the road is your best course of action. Either she’ll calm herself, or you can find a safe moment to pull over and comfort her.
Never use the phone while driving.
78% of the 2,000 new mothers surveyed in the aforementioned poll revealed that they talk on the phone while driving with their babies in the car. 26% admitted to texting or checking email.
Texting while driving is by far the most dangerous form of distracted driving. And it’s a totally unnecessary behavior. Very few people are so busy that they need to be on the phone while they’re behind the wheel. The ones that are should consider getting a driver. Or a jet.
Collision data from the Province of Ontario shows that a driver using a mobile phone is four times more likely to crash than a focused driver. It also reports that over the last 16 years, deaths from distracted driving in the province have doubled.
The risks of being a distracted driver far, far outweigh any short-term benefits. Especially when there’s a baby in the car. Happy driving to all the parents out there!