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Children or cellphones: What is the bigger distraction?

Distracted driving conversations often target young people and their cellphones. Everyone knows that phones have changed significantly in the last decade. They offer more options than ever and people use them constantly. That includes using them to send text messages, take pictures and browse social media while they drive.

These conversations are important, but they sometimes give the impression that young people are the only distracted drivers or that cellphones are the only problem. That could not be further from the truth. The reality is that there are many distractions, and one of the biggest is having children in the car. Parents are some of the most distracted drivers on Missouri's highways.

Dealing with children

Anyone who has children knows just how much attention they require. It's hard enough at home. It's impossible in the car. Some of the ways that parents get distracted include:

  • Handing the children drinks or snacks for the ride
  • Trying to pick up toys and other items that the kids have dropped on the floor
  • Talking to children to answer their questions
  • Trying to get children to behave and to stop arguing with each other in the car
  • Attempting to help children who are sick or injured
  • Listening to children cry, yell or talk when they don't like being in the car
  • Turning up the music or turning on a tablet/TV to give the kids some entertainment

It's sometimes amazing the lengths that parents will go to in order to soothe their children -- who, notoriously, do not like long car rides -- even if it means that they're not focusing on the road.

"The youngest one hates the car, so we play the music really loud, and everyone drums on the ceiling," said one mother, who has three children of her own. "If he still cries, I reach back and rub his foot. I'm grateful that we've never been in a crash."

Parental instincts can really kick in when the children need something. Parents feel this natural drive to get them to calm down or stop crying. They want to take care of them. While that instinct is very good and helpful in a controlled setting, it can be dangerous and even deadly in the car. A parent who leans down to pick up a dropped bottle may think they can do it quickly and safely, but they're not holding the wheel and not looking at the road. That's a recipe for disaster.

Your rights after a crash

Have you been hit by one of these distracted parents? If so, make sure you know if you have a right to compensation for lost wages, medical bills and other costs.

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