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Constant Vigilance Is the Most Important Driving Tool

Many parents remember the first time they drove with their baby in the car — the nearly paralyzing fear that any wrong move could put their child in danger. I don’t think I’ve ever gripped the steering wheel tighter than during that first ride home with my oldest son.  I’m sure I never once passed someone during that first year when he was in the car with me. Even today, just seeing a “Baby on Board” sign in someone else’s car makes me more cautious when I’m behind the wheel.

My boys are older now, but I still drive with more attention when they are in the car. My phone stays in my purse. My lane changes are less frequent and my braking more careful. Sometimes I’m conscious of trying to set a good example, but mostly I just want to make sure that NOTHING BAD happens to them, certainly not while I’m in control of the car. As a parent, I worry all of the time about potential dangers to my children when they are away from me, and when they are with me I want to eliminate as many risks as I can.

Its a mixed blessing that working in Personal Injury Law I’ve become aware of virtually all of the surprising dangers that surround us, especially when it comes to car accidents. In recent years we’ve had a slew of cases involving distracted driving. Digging into the latest research we’ve found some alarming statistics that have led us to one overriding conclusion: to minimize the risk of being involved in an auto accident, a safe driver needs to be constantly vigilant while behind the wheel.

Did you know?

• Distracted drivers perform worse than drunk drivers in laboratory tests.
• Cell phone conversations reduce a driver’s functional field of vision, a phenomenon called “Inattention Blindness”
• 69% of US drivers ages 18-64 report cell phone conversations while driving
• 31% of US drivers ages 18-64 report texting or emailing while driving
• 421,000 people were injured in car and truck crashes caused by distracted driving in 2012
• 3,328 people died in car and truck crashes caused by distracted driving in 2012

As hard as it is to believe, the facts indicate that driving a car is one of the riskiest things that most of us do in our daily lives. The influx of danger signals that arrive when you strap your baby into their car seat for the first time are well-founded. In a world where in-car distractions might cause other drivers to swerve out of their lanes or run through stop lights, it is not enough to simply control your own car safely, you’ve got to constantly be on the lookout for others who are not fully in control.

My recommendation sounds whimsical, but it is actually a serious one: every time you get behind the wheel, pretend there is a tiny, newborn baby in the back seat. What safe choices would you make with an infant in your vehicle that you wouldn’t make if you were driving on your own? The reality is that wherever we are driving, we all have people who are counting on us to make it safely home. And wherever we are driving our paths are bound to cross with a few others who actually do have a Baby On Board.

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