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What new parents need to relearn about driving

Whitney Coy is a freelance writer and editor based in Columbus, OH, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She writes frequently for SheKnows, as well as several other websites. She writes on topics including parenting, trav...

A whole new road

When you become a new parent, everything changes. You have a lot to adjust to. Why should your driving habits stay the same? After all, you're driving around with your most precious possession in the backseat. Have you adjusted your driving habits? You should!
mom driving baby in car seat

SheKnows asked some child-safety professionals what driving habits most new parents need to improve. Read on to find out if you have room for improvement, too.

Baby in the backseat

The biggest change that a new parent faces is, of course, the baby in the backseat.

"As a new parent, you're going to be tempted to try to tend to your crying baby from the front," said certified child passenger safety technician Grainne Kelly.

There are a million reasons your baby may be upset, but parents have to resist the urge to reach back and help.

"Before you know it, you'll find yourself swerving or worse. Pull over at the next exit and tend to your baby without endangering your family or others," she added.

Distracted driving

New parents are often more pressed for time than they've ever been before, and they often find themselves trying to make up for that by multitasking. On most occasions, that's a good idea, but not when you're behind the wheel.

"As a new parent, I learned quickly that everything suddenly took way longer than it used to," said Erin Nelson, director of brand strategy and communication at Location Labs. "So parents make every moment count. But the worst place to multitask is behind the wheel. I have to constantly remind myself that even though having my kindergartener do her read-aloud homework from the backseat seems like a great idea, it really only means I'm doing two things badly — and one of them is life threatening."

One of the worst multitasking mistakes parents make while driving is texting. Even Nelson, who works for a company that makes no-texting-while-driving apps, admitted to it. Nelson said that while texting while driving may seem like it would make life easier and help get tasks done faster, it doesn't.

"It's a dangerous delusion," she said.

Tired driving

New moms and dads don't get a lot of sleep, and that's not a good combination with time behind the wheel. The best thing to do when you feel tired is to avoid driving or pull over, but that isn't always an option. Kelly offered some suggestions for those times when you're feeling sleepy but have to spend a few more minutes behind the wheel.

"If you're feeling exhausted and your eyes are starting to close, open the window, turn down the heat or chew a piece of peppermint gum. The fresh air, the mint scent and the activity of chewing wake you up," she said. "You might also want to pick up a cup of caffeinated coffee, tea or [a] bottle of soda."

Look before you leave

It may seem like an unthinkable accident, but a surprisingly high number of new parents admit to leaving their baby in the car when they don't mean to. Reported incidents range from leaving the baby in the car while running into the store to bypassing the sitter altogether and leaving the baby in the backseat through an entire workday. A baby left in a car is susceptible to kidnapping, parking lot accidents and the deadly heat that can build up in a closed car over an extended period of time.

A good way to protect against this is to come to an agreement with your child-care provider. If you are late dropping off your child by a certain amount of time, have your provider give you a call. That call may serve as an important reminder.

Kelly recommended you add a safety check to your routine. Open the back door every time you exit the car, even if you know you don't have your child with you.

"Once you do it a few times, your mind will be automatically programmed to do it," she said.

She also suggested keeping your purse, briefcase or wallet in the back with your baby.

"We're used to grabbing those as we exit, so it forces us to check the backseat."

More tips about cars and kids

Driving safely with baby on board
Driving lessons: From the go-kart track to the highway
Be prepared: What to do if you're stranded

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