Recent studies have shown that children are four times more distractive than adult passengers and infants even more so.
The most worrying discovery is that driving with an infant is 12 times as distracting as driving while using your cellphone.
An Australian University, Monash, monitored 12 families over three weeks with a discreetly fitted monitoring device. The device tracked how many times and for how long eyes were taken off the road for more than two seconds and monitored distracted behaviour whilst driving. The families had an average of two children between the ages of one and eight, and 92 family trips were recorded and studied.
Distractive actions were turning to look at the child or looking into the rear-view mirror at the kids (76.4%), engaging in conversations with the kids (16%), assisting the child (7%) or playing with the child (1%)
Of the 92 trips studied, 90 shows children engaging in distractive behaviour resulting in the drivers taking the attention away from driving on average for three minutes and 22 seconds, a staggering 25% of the average driving distance.
It is impossible not to pay attention to your children while you are driving.
Here are 9 ways to avoid being distracted by your kids while driving
- Children in car seats are less likely to distract you and are less likely to misbehave
- Talk to your kids once they are old enough to understand that driving can be dangerous and your attention needs to be on the road.
- Tired and hungry kids misbehave more often. Anticipate those situations and keep healthy snacks in the car for them and put their car seats in a reclined position before you drive off.
- If your child drops something during the ride, resist the urge to pick it up for them. They can have the item once you can safely retrieve it or at the end of the ride.
- Pull over where it is safe if the kids are having a tantrum or a fight on the back seat. It is very difficult to discipline the kids and keep your attention on the road.
- Sometimes you just have to ignore them. You also need time to gather yourself before you respond to the kids when it is safe to do so.
- It is quite alright to tell the kids that you are driving in difficult traffic and that your attention needs to be on the road. Thank them later for their good behaviour whilst you were negotiating the traffic. They will love it!
- Play games like I-Spy, or discuss road signs you encounter. It is also a good idea to have children audiobooks, music or sing-alongs at hand.
- Another idea is to have a small packet of healthy treats like biltong at hand. If the kids misbehave, you get some biltong from the packet. They can have what is left over, if any, after the drive. Let them know the rules of this game beforehand.
Always reduce your speed when you are driving with your children. You will have more control over the vehicle and more time to react to incidents ahead. Older kids can help you scan the road ahead for traffic disturbances. Make them “responsible co-drivers”. Valuable lessons learnt will pay off one day when they are driving themselves.
If you have an old car seat gathering dust somewhere, please consider donating it to Wheel Well. Their Car Seats for Kids campaign needs your old seat to clean and check for safety before they are made available to parents who cannot afford these vital items new.
About Peggie Mars
Peggie is a committed advocate for child rights in road safety and founded Wheel Well in 2012 with the help of Eugene Herbert from MasterDrive. The Car Seats for Kids campaign has been running for seven years, and more than 8 500 children have benefitted from a safe, clean used car seat.
Since Peggie started her work with Wheel Well, the death toll of our children in traffic-related crashes have come down by 24%. Their work for children in road safety has expanded to include children in public transport and children as pedestrians.
Peggie has been awarded the Prince Michael International Road Safety Award in 2016 in the Safer Road User category. She has also received the Gumtree Women in Autos Award for extraordinary contribution to the Automotive Industry in 2018 and is a finalist in the Woman of Stature Awards 2019.