I heard the car hit mine before I saw it. I’ll remember the noise forever, like a sound effect from a movie. Except this was no movie. This was my life and another car had come crashing through it. Car accidents happen all the time. But this time, my kid was in the car, and the accident was my fault. I wasn’t texting or talking on the phone. I went through a red light, distracted by my kid or something on my mind.
We were lucky. No one was injured. My kid was terrified, but rallied like a champ. Cars are repairable. People aren’t. We walked away uninjured, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how close I’d come to putting my kid in danger simply because I was distracted.
So from that day on, I made some rules for my own appropriate behaviour in the car. Hopefully, you’ll adopt these rules as well. We have precious cargo!
1. I don’t check my emails or text in the car, period. Even at stoplights or in traffic, my phone stays in my handbag where it remains for the duration of the ride. If a text or email is really important, I pull over and tend to it safely, so when I’m driving I can keep my eyes and thoughts on the road.
2. I’m not helping the kids with games or iPads in the car. My kids are little (ages 3 and 6) and that means they always need help with a game or app. My eyes belong on the road, not trying to help a kid whose melting down and turning into an angry bird.
3. I pull over during kid meltdowns. Few things can distract a driver more than a kid in the backseat who’s coming unglued. So if either of my kids needs to freak out on the road, I pull over. We may be late to our destination, but at least I’ll be focused when I start driving again.
4. If my kids drop something, it can wait. Every time my youngest one drops her water bottle or snack while we’re in the car, she wants me to reach back and pick it up — adding with a good shout of “Now!” It’s stressful and not safe. She’s learning to wait until we’re parked safely.
5. I’m not rushing. I always feel pressure to be on time everywhere my kids need to go, but sometimes traffic makes that impossible. So if we’re running late, I’m not panicking — or speeding. The stress makes me more inclined to make unsafe choices, and it’s just not worth it.
It’s been six months six my car accident. My son and I are doing great, but I’ll never forget how close we came to being injured or worse. So if I take a little longer to return your text or get to dance class, I know you’ll understand.