But I wasn’t even on the phone, officer…..
When you hear about distracted driving, do you automatically think about cell phone users? I know I do…….or did. But I admit, after looking at a list of possible distractions I realized that there are many more than I was even aware of…and that I have many of them. Actually, two in particular – my children!
As it turns out, I am not the only one. According to CAA statistics, driving with a child passenger is much more distracting than driving alone or with an adult passenger. But I think to myself, how can I as a parent manage traveling without the distraction of my children when they are in the car? Here are some tips to help you avoid becoming distracted while you drive, with or without child passengers:
- Turn off your mobile phone before you get in your car — that way you won’t be tempted to answer your phone. If you can’t avoid having your mobile phone on, install a hands free kit — that way you can drive and talk on your phone more safely. Or you may want to use your cell phone only when parked or have a passenger take the call.
- Plan your route and preset your GPS device, your vehicle’s climate control, and radio/CD player before leaving your home. I know what you are thinking, these are easy tasks. But take a look on how these ‘easy tasks’ become deadly distractions by using this distracted driving simulator .
- If you have children, have plenty of things to keep them occupied for the duration of the trip. Such as a selection of toys to play with, their favourite music to listen to, or play games such as “I spy”. Also make sure they are securely restrained.
- Just like at the dinner table, have rules on how your children need to behave while in the car. Whether it’s not yelling for you or at a sibling, or knowing that they will have to wait to have a movie started until you are safely pulled over. It’s important that children know your expectations prior to getting in the car.
- Plan regular stops to beat fatigue and let the kids burn some energy (at least a fifteen minute break every two hours is recommended). If you do need to attend to your children during the trip, pull over at a safe location and stop the vehicle before sorting out the situation.
- Be mindful of how you behave while driving because ‘little’ eyes are watching. What I mean is, children mimic what they see and children grow up quickly and turn into teenagers who text while driving!
Finally, if you are travelling with your family for summer vacation, be aware that all ten provinces in Canada have some form of cell phone or distracted driving legislation in place. In Ontario, police began enforcing the new distraction legislation in January 2010 but despite this, that same year, OPP reported that there were over 7700 collisions due inattentive or distracted driving.
So with all these tips in mind, I know I will be better prepared for family trips! What will you do?
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Corinne Berg RN BScN is a Public Health Nurse on the Youth Health Team and works with schools in Milton and Georgetown. As a wife and mother of two children, ages three and six, she enjoys spending time as a family whether it be playing cards, having a dance party or cheering on her children during their extra curricular activities.