mom drivingHere's a piece of news that is both unsurprising and disturbing: New moms may be among the most distracted drivers on the road. In a survey conducted by American Baby and Safe Kids Worldwide, the majority of more than 2,000 moms of kids under age 2 say they're more careful behind the wheel since giving birth -- but the stats tell a different story.

It turns out that most moms THINK we're safer drivers with our precious cargo on board, but the reality is we're tired, distracted, and we have a very bad habit of multitasking with our cellphones. Shockingly, almost 10 percent of the surveyed new moms had experienced an accident with their baby while driving.

According to the CDC, more than 1,200 people are injured every day in crashes that involve a distracted driver. How can you keep you and your baby from becoming a statistic? Experts recommend following these rules:

Put down the cellphone. As in, toss it in the backseat so you aren't tempted to glance at it while you're behind the wheel. 1.2 million crashes per year can be attributed to cellphone use while driving, but the American Baby/Safe Kids survey shows plenty of us aren't worried about that number: 78 percent of new moms admit they talk on the phone in the car, and 26 percent check email or text. No bueno.

Choose your errand time wisely. I almost hate to include this advice, but here goes: experts suggest strategically planning your outings whenever possible to lessen the chances that you'll be driving around with a howling baby in the backseat. (As we all know, this isn't always possible.)

Eliminate additional distractions. You're a little busy these days, to say the least. But try not to use your driving time to grab a quick meal, slap on some lip gloss, or dig through your purse. The more you've got going on, the less you're able to focus on the task at hand.

Pay attention to your fatigue levels. New moms are often operating on very little sleep, and even if we think we're wide awake, our reaction times are drastically affected by being low on rest. If you're wiped out, think twice about getting behind the wheel in the first place. Or pull over to a safe place and try to get in a power nap, or drink some caffeine (200 milligrams, about two cups of coffee).

Don't turn around to tend to your child. It's SO hard to avoid this one, but taking your eyes off the road to hand over a toy or replace a pacifier is the worst thing you can do. If you're driving 55 miles per hour and you look away for two seconds, your car will have traveled 176 feet -- half the length of a football field. Attending to young children is such a distraction, the accident rate for new moms is on par with teens.

Always use the child safety seat. Always, always, always, always. If used properly, a car seat can reduce fatalities among infants by 71 percent. Have your child's seat checked by a safety tech (find one at SeatCheck.org), and periodically check the seat for snugness and fit.

Are you at all surprised to hear that new moms are so distracted behind the wheel?


Image via abardwell/Flickr