Is driving with kids dangerously distracting?

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Most Texas drivers know that operating a vehicle while distracted can be dangerous. If asked to list distractions, respondents might mention texting, talking on the phone, eating, drinking or changing the radio dial. Most drivers fail to consider that driving with their children may be just as distracting, or even more so.

How distracting are your children, and what can you do to increase your driving safety?

Understanding the danger

A recent study shows that children passengers may distract a driver 12 times more than if they were using a cellphone behind the wheel. Children can distract their parent drivers in many ways:

  • Yelling or crying in the backseat
  • Fighting with siblings
  • Dropping items on the floor of the car
  • Requesting a snack, game or other item
  • Asking the parent to help them with a task

Parents are naturally attentive to their children’s needs and may not even realize that their reactions are diverting their attention from the road. However, every time you glance back at your children, hand them an item or break up a fight, you are taking your eyes and mind off the road and hands off the wheel. This increases your chances of accident.

Tips to increase your family’s safety

It may be impossible to completely eliminate your children’s distracting behaviors, but look for opportunities to minimize them:

  • Prepare a bag with snacks, toys and other items your children might need during the drive and leave it within their reach.
  • Tell your children that you cannot hand them anything, or turn around to help them, unless the car is stopped.
  • If you need to help your child, safely pull over and put the car in park before you provide assistance.
  • Clearly explain proper car behavior to your children and enforce your expectations as you would any other household rule.

It will take some time to retrain yourself to follow safer driving practices, but it is worth the effort. As a parent, your child’s safety is your number one priority, and this can help you with that goal.

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