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On Parenting
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 07/19/2011

Texting-while-driving, a dumb way to use smart technology

My daughter and I have a sort-of joke in the car. If I take a hand off the wheel to scratch my nose, she shouts: “Hands on the wheel!”

I always act flustered and apologetic, then thank her and return my second hand to the wheel. This routine grew out of a few episodes when she was, in fact, much more mature than her mother.

It was back when I used to read my text messages while driving. I started doing this soon after I began writing this blog. I was cramming too much into my days and texting-while-driving was a way to multi-task. I read mostly while I waited at red lights and she noticed that my attention was turned when the light turned green.

At first, she pointed out that the light had changed. After a few of these reminders, she commanded,“don’t read your phone!”

It was at that moment, when I was about to scold her disrespect, that it occurred to me that I was disrespecting her, profoundly. I apologized, thanked her and put both my hands on the wheel.

I wish I could say that was the end of it, but I had a few lapses when she wasn’t in the car. I now make sure my phone is completely out of reach when I drive. Too tempting to grab it just this once.

I’ve been reminded of my stupid behavior by a cluster of new advertisements and by a new study published online Monday.

The bracing new BMW national ad campaign tackles the subject of texting-while-driving. A television spot shows a series of parents over-protecting their children to laughable degrees:outfitting a little boy with swimmies for the bath; smearing Purell all over a child’s body. The final image shows one of the well-meaning mothers in the driver’s seat, her child strapped in behind her as she glances at her phone. Viewers see what she’s too distracted to notice, a car fast approaching from the right. With her attention on the phone, the crash is inevitable.

Meanwhile, the new study in Pediatrics found that children in cars with grandparents are statistically safer than driving with their parents. That study’s results defies common perceptions and the researchers’ expectations. Grandparents don’t always use the best restraint practices, sometimes drive older cars without the latest safety features and may have age-related problems that inhibit their driving abilities. But children have a 50 percent lower risk of injury when their grandparents are behind the wheel. Fifty percent.

The study did not explore the whys of this phenomenon, but it’s pretty safe to conclude that not texting or phone-calling have something to do with it. Perhaps grandparents are made more nervous about the task of driving with the ‘precious cargo’ of their grandchildren and establish more cautious driving habits to offset these challenges,” researchers wrote.

Parenting has always been a hectic endeavour. Parents are usually overwhelmed with things to do, trying to fit 48 hours of responsibilities into 24.

The difference now is that we have “smart” technology to help us cram it all in. At the same time, technology gives us the false sense that we can do it all — keep up professionally and socially even while carpooling and keeping pediatrician appointments. It’s a vicious treadmill. The more we keep up the more we expect ourselves to take on.

The urge to multi-task in the car can be intense, but it’s just not worth the risk.The leading cause of death in children older than 3 is motor-vehicle accidents according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our elders, and in my case my younger, are right on this one.

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 07/19/2011

 
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