Thursday, September 27, 2012

Driving While Parenting

Maybe the eighties had it right—maybe that “Baby on Board” sign really was a warning.

We’ve all seen the clips on the news magazine shows—they take the simulator to a high school and the kids learn how much drinking or texting can affect their driving. I am 100%, completely and totally in favor of this. There is no excuse for deliberately doing something that endangers lives—the more kids learn about this, the better.

But no one ever tells you how profoundly having children affects your driving.

And I’m not talking about that first drive with your newborn in the baby bucket, either. You know, the one where you go 5 mph below the speed limit, signal a half mile before intersections, and constantly ask the parent in the passenger seat, “Is the baby okay?” Not that.

The other day the kids and I drove to my husband’s office to meet him for lunch. So that’s a 15-minute drive, about half of it on the interstate. You’d better believe I took a deep breath when we parked. Then, after lunch, my husband drove the kids home. I drove home ALONE.

Turns out age hasn’t completely deteriorated my reflexes and decision-making abilities. In fact, I drive as well as I did ten years ago…when I’m alone.

This leads me to a whole series of reminisces, like that time when S. was two years old. She had a playgroup and we went to lunch with friends after. Then we both needed a nap, STAT. So, for the entire 45-minute drive home, she dropped and then cried for her ball. At some point, it wedged in that spot behind the seat that you can’t reach, even at stoplights. You know the spot?

Of course, the true lesson was that I handed her the ball when we got home and, with a hugely forced smile, said, “Here’s your darn ball.” Delighted, smiling as if she’d never done anything else, she said, “Darn ball?” Boy, was I glad I used the PG version.

So if all that drama is going on in a parent’s car, not to mention the seat-kicking, food management, drink spilling, arguing, perpetual making of car noises from boys, and the occasional UFO, it’s bound to affect the parent’s driving. Let’s not even get into sleep deprivation and chronic lateness!

Hasn’t ANYONE come up with safety measures to combat this? IV sedatives built into car seats? Noise cancelling devices in the armrest? Standard soundproof windows between front and rear seats? Built in nannies?

Well, until then, if you see a parent with kids in the car, be kind. Don’t honk if they don’t take that left turn into a marginal gap traffic. They’re driving while parenting—better safe than sorry!

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