A recent survey suggests that new mothers are as big a threat on the road as motorists who talk on their cellphones, text, eat or engage in other distractions.
American Baby and Safe Kids Worldwide polled 2,400 mothers with children under 2 and found that they are just as likely to engage in risky behavior as teenage drivers. Their habits included driving while fatigued, using their cellphones, ignoring the speed limit and turning around to check on a baby in the back seat.
More than 10 percent of respondents said they had been in an accident with their children present, a rate three times that of the general population, said Dana Points, editor-in-chief of American Baby magazine.
“While we expect new moms to feel exhausted, we were shocked by their lack of focus while driving, especially when their baby or toddler is in the car,” Points said. “The combination of fatigue and distraction is a perfect storm where safety is concerned. We hope this report helps moms recognize and change their behavior behind the wheel.”
The study found that 63 percent of new mothers claim they have become more cautious drivers since giving birth and 77 percent fear getting in an accident. Yet nearly 8 in 10 new mothers use their phones while driving, a behavior that is as dangerous as drunken driving, according to some researchers. More than 25 percent admitted to checking or sending e-mails or text messages, which is also considered as dangerous as drunken driving.
Nearly two-thirds said they have turned around to tend to a child while driving, and more than half reported driving faster than the posted speed limit with a child in the vehicle. About 75 percent said they have trouble concentrating on a single task, such as driving.
“It’s become part of our culture to not just drive, but to drive and do 20 other things,” said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, a network of organizations dedicated to protecting children from unintentional injuries. “The problem is that multi-tasking can lead to tragedies.”
The findings come just as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this week that 69 percent of U.S. drivers talk on their phones while driving and 31 percent read or send e-mails or text messages.
The CDC said high-visibility enforcement and public education campaigns deserve further research to determine their effectiveness in reducing risky behavior.
The National Safety Council has designated April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.