What We Can Learn From Our Kids About Distracted Driving

Unlike a new vehicle, your child probably didn’t come with an owner’s manual. But the moment she opened her eyes and looked at you, everything changed. It’s hard to explain that moment until it happens, but one second you are an independent operator and the next moment you realize you’d fight a cage match with a grizzly bear if it meant protecting your son or daughter.

So we do everything we can to protect our children. We teach them to be cautious around strangers and child-proof the house to cut down dangers. We watch them, worry about them, love them and protect them with every ounce of our being. And still we worry that it isn’t going to be enough.

Out of the Mouths of Babes (Oft Times Come Gems)

I remember when my own children were just learning to read. We were driving to daycare, and I was thinking about the meeting I was going to be late for. My phone kept buzzing for my attention from the passenger seat and I was trying to find a child-friendly CD to distract from the squabbles in the back seat. My son sounded out the letters on the sign, “S-T-O-P … Stop” and I felt a rush of pride. And then came the fall.

“Daddy, why did you drive by that sign that says stop?”

The question was pure innocence. And it stopped me cold. In a heartbeat I went from feeling like the world’s greatest multi-tasker to the world’s worst dad. I realized how lucky I was that there hadn’t been a pedestrian crossing the road or a car turning in front of me. I was so focused on everything else that I had completely tuned out the act of driving. It was a hard lesson to learn, but it could have been so much harder.

My own father used to say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” We can  tell our kids how important it is to drive with caution, but when they watch us send a quick text, carry on a Bluetooth conversation or reach around to grab something from the back seat, we send a dangerously mixed message.

What are You Doing Behind the Wheel?

As parents, we race around to make appointments, meet deadlines, and create opportunities for our children to learn and grow. But when we strap our kids into car seats and put it in gear we can’t afford to take any short cuts. After rushing around to get ready, it can be tempting to let our guard down and settle in for the ride — but it can also be deadly.

One of the greatest gifts our children give us is that ability to look into their eyes and see ourselves. Their innocence re-awakens us to the magic and wonder in the world. It makes us want to be better people. But when we stop paying attention to driving and start multitasking behind the wheel, we have to remember to keep seeing ourselves through their eyes, and ask what kind of impression we’re leaving.

It’s a Fact

Distracted driving can wreck your family. Taking your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind off the task of driving – even for a quick moment – can lead to consequences that last a lifetime.

So whether those kids are strapped into your back seat or the back seat of the car beside you, let’s keep our focus on driving and let the distractions fade away.

Learn more about the dangers and take the pledge to avoid distractions behind the wheel.

When I'm not busy advocating for safer roads and communities, I can be found advocating for my children to eat their vegetables and clean their rooms. I'm committed to helping AMA members find the confidence to live their best lives.