Driving with a newborn can be nerve-wracking, especially if it’s your first child. Not only are you worried about your new passenger in the backseat, you’re probably exhausted, too.
A poll conducted by Safe Kids Worldwide found that 10 percent of new moms were involved in a car accident while driving with their baby—nearly three times higher than the general population. While a safe car seat is essential to keeping your infant safe, developing good driving habits is also integral to ensuring you and your baby get to your destination safely. These tips can help keep your eyes—and your mind—focused on the road.
Pull Over to Soothe Your Crying Baby
The worst sound you can hear as a new parent is the sound of your newborn crying, but reaching back to soothe them not only takes your eyes off the road, but your hands off the wheel. As difficult as it may be, don’t turn around while you are driving. Find a safe place to pull over before checking on your baby.
Don’t Use Mirrors
Many parents attach mirrors to rear-facing car seats so they can see their baby’s face while they are driving. These mirrors are marketed as a product that can help keep your baby safe in the car, but they have the potential of putting everyone’s safety at risk. If you’re constantly locking eyes with your baby, it means you aren’t looking at the road.
Even if you don’t attach a mirror to your baby’s car seat, resist the temptation to adjust your rearview mirror to focus on them. One study found that during an average 16-minute trip, parents were distracted for 18 percent of the time. Looking at children, including through a rearview mirror, accounted for 76 percent of this time.
Don’t Give Your Baby Bottles
One way to eliminate the need for a car seat mirror is to eliminate safety hazards in the car seat. A bottle can be a potential choking hazard, so don’t let your baby have one unattended while you are driving. Try to plan trips between feedings or pull over when your baby needs to eat.
Don’t Eat and Drink
The no-eating-and-drinking rule also applies to you. Parents of newborns know that multitasking is often the only way to get everything done in the day, but eating and drinking causes you to take your hands off the wheel and pulls your focus away from driving.
Keep Your Phone Out of Sight
You should always keep your phone out of reach while driving, but this is especially important when you’re driving with your baby. Getting distracted by text messages, social media alerts, and phone calls while driving is just asking for trouble, yet a recent study from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing found that half of parents use their phones with their young children in the car.
Use Sun Shades
If the sun is in your baby’s eyes, there’s a good chance they’ll get fussy and start crying. Applying sun shades to your back windows can help block out the sun’s rays. Buy sun shades that clip onto the top of the window—shades that are applied with suction cups can come loose and fall onto your baby.
Have an Adult Sit Next to Your Baby When Possible
If you can drive with another adult, ask them to sit in the back next to your baby. They can soothe your child if they get fussy and help give you peace of mind as you drive.
Know When to Stay Home
Nothing is more important than the safety of you and your child, and babies can be unpredictable. Accept that you may have to run late to a few appointments, wait until your spouse gets home to leave the house, or skip your trip altogether if you’re too tired or distracted to drive.
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Zeb Goldstein is an attorney for Morgan & Morgan, with a focus on helping clients recover damages in personal injury claims. Away from the courtroom, he enjoys cooking, exercising, and attending his children’s school events.