A survey of 2,396 mothers finds they tend to think they're safe drivers but actually engage in risky habits. / AP file
New mothers talk on the phone, text or check e-mail at an alarming rate while driving with their babies in the car, a newly released survey finds.
Although they're otherwise protective of their young children, the survey finds, 78% of mothers with children under age 2 acknowledge talking on the phone while driving with their babies; 26% say they text or check their e-mail.
The survey from the child-protection advocacy group Safe Kids Worldwide and American Baby magazine finds that the new mothers' behavior rivals that of teenage drivers.
Cellphones weren't the only distractions for the new moms. Nearly two-thirds of them said that they've turned around to deal with their baby in the back seat while driving.
The survey of 2,396 mothers finds an attitude among new moms that is reflected in the general population: They tend to think they're safe drivers but actually engage in risky habits.
Among the mothers, 63% say they're more cautious behind the wheel since giving birth, but that's not reflected in their behavior.
"Everyone wants to think they're a good driver, especially when they're a mom," says Laura Kalehoff, executive editor of American Baby. "You pick out the safest car seat, the safest crib, and you want to feel like you're making the right choices. They thought they were being better drivers, while their behavior showed otherwise."
Nearly 10% of the surveyed mothers, who drove an average of 150 miles a week, had been in a crash while driving with their babies - a crash rate nearly three times higher than that of the general public and one that closes in on the crash rate of teen drivers.
The crash rate for miles driven for 16- to 19-year-olds is four times as high as the rate for drivers 20 and older.
"We get in the car, and we assume that whatever we were doing when we were sitting in our home or in our office can just carry forward while we're driving," says Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide.
Carr recommends that all drivers leave their phones in the back seat while driving and that parents pull over and stop if they need to deal with a child. She says new moms wouldn't engage in risky driving practices if they realized the potential danger.
"That's depressing," says Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, of the survey's findings. "People have become so accustomed to being connected all the time that they are resisting the safety community saying you shouldn't be doing that while driving."
Kalehoff, 36, says the idea to study new mothers' driving habits grew partly out of her own experience. In 2007, when her son, Julian, was 9 months old and her family had just moved to suburban New York, she was rear-ended after she drove through a stop sign, then stopped a few feet later.
"I knew I was too tired to be driving," Kalehoff says. "My mind was in places other than the road. That experience changed me as a driver. I signed up, at age 31, for refresher driving lessons with the local driving school. I thought: 'This probably isn't an uncommon problem. Let's see what new moms are doing.' "
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