Who’s the PARENT in the Car – You or Your Child?

It’s puzzling and disheartening to witness a parent who allows their child to control their actions in the car instead of driving in a safe and productive manner. An automobile should be given the proper respect since driving is severely more dangerous than other common forms of travel. A parent should be controlling the situation in the car otherwise the child becomes the parent.

I’ve seen a variety of unwise and/or unsafe actions as a driver being irritated by a stressed parent or as a passenger bewildered by a parent more concerned about the temperament of a child than driving safely.

Below is a small taste of my experience:

--As a driver, I’ve been asked to hurry or speed up in order for a child not to fall asleep. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Of course I ignored the request and replied to the parent, “Safety comes first in my car not the actions of a child or any other passenger”. This parent probably has an unsafe driving manner most of the time.

--I’ve been in vehicles as a passenger when a parent has reached (often with eyes off the road) for an object or toy in order to calm an unhappy child or been distracted by a screaming child. Why don’t we ever think of stopping in these situations? These actions are two of many reasons why I rarely ride as a passenger.

--The children I’ve seen in a rear facing infant/child seat in the FRONT (not uncommon in Sweden) are an obvious distraction.  The parents have them there for a number of reasons with the central theme being that it’s EASIER for the parent to tend to their needs. Driving safely should be the main concern in a car NOT the temporary neediness of a child.

In my opinion (many experts agree), children should be in the back seat so they become less of a distraction. In addition, if there is an accident, a child is safer in the back seat.

Parents, I implore you to change your behaviour if you can see yourself in any of the previous scenario’s described or any similar situation. Our job as parents is to protect our children and most of us do it rather well. Why should the car be any different especially as dangerous as driving is?

When I drive with my children, there is only one philosophy I follow:

I drive safely and defensively - My eyes are on the road - I am ALWAYS aware of my surroundings.

My children will never be in the front seat of a car until they are of the proper age to safely be there. Do they become irritated or whiny sometimes in the back of the car? Of course but it is rare because they know that the temporary neediness I mentioned previously will have to wait until dad gets to his destination. Do they ever become a distraction that could prevent me from driving safely? Never.

Actually, I drive the same way whether I am alone, with friends or have children in the car. I want to be as safe as possible and I am in the right country as Sweden is one of the safest for drivers (despite the aforementioned parental risks) in the world even though 420 people died on the road in 2008 – a low number for a country of 9 million.

Sweden's roads are among the safest in the world thanks to a national passion for safety and a hunger for innovation. This dates back to 1959, when Volvo became the first car maker in the world to fit three-point seatbelts as standard.

In America, the news wasn’t so positive in 2005 – the deaths were almost 44,000.

Some 43,443 people were killed on the highways last year, up 1.4 percent from 42,836 in 2004, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tuesday. It was the highest number in a single year since 1990, when 44,599 people were killed.

Fortunately, your chances of being killed on the road are low despite the presence of unsafe drivers. Unfortunately, many people don’t think a deadly accident will happen to them so they take risks despite having their precious children in the car.

Having driven an immense number of miles during the last thirty years in America and Sweden has given me the ultimate respect for the road. In addition, I have seen far too many “near accidents” where often the presence of lady luck saved a potentially horrible tragedy.

If you don’t have a genuine respect for the road, maybe this article will serve as inspiration for you to at least show more patience and make some improvements in your driving style. If not, the next trip in the car could be the last for you and those you cherish.

Remember, You’re the Parent.
(The title of my 2009 article which is worth reading, link is below)


Happy Gswede Sunday!

I'm excited about the 6th year of my "American Basketball Coach in Sweden" Program! This picture from 2009 shows Coach Steve working with a group of youth in Sweden.  (www.Gswede.blogspot.com)

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