Distracted Driving and Rear Facing Carseats

I am in favor of safety.

I do think that what “safety” looks like will vary from family to family, and there is no one cut-and-dried answer to what is “safe.” In addition, we’re all willing to take certain risks with our kids that other families would find appalling. Keeping your kids 100% safe 100% of the time is neither practical nor a particularly good idea.

A few weeks ago, I was directed to a blog post about car seat safety. This morning, Jan M on WHO radio had a guest talking about distracted driving. These two go hand in hand, IMO.

THIS was the blog post. The post itself isn’t bad. Where it gets judgy and mean and ridiculous is the comments – particularly the blog author’s responses to the comments.

One commentor asked about her 18 month old, who had been, for 5 months, wailing and screaming in the car constantly, regardless of distraction techniques, different seating positions, etc. The driver nearly wrecked several times because her screaming wass so distracting. She makes herself vomit, she’s crying so hard. Response, “At what point do you think its ok to put your child’s life in danger??? That’s basically what your saying…’I don’t want to hear my child cry any longer, so I’ll flip them around, which is completely unsafe for them.’ Perfect! Problem solved!!!! …is it really that big of a deal to listen to their screams, so their safe? Not in my opinion…It’s not about what’s convenient for you.”

One size fits all. I’m right, you’re wrong, my solution is perfect for everyone, end of story.

Ugh, I hate that attitude.


But contrast that with the message from the guy on the radio this morning, whose daughter was killed by a distracted driver. His message was essentially that driving while distracted (he discussed all the various distractions, including crying children) carries extremely serious consequences – up to and including death. A distracted driver is not usually a good driver – you cannot focus on two things at one time. If you’re paying attention to your children, you’re not paying attention to the road.

His approach was rather one-size-fits-all, too. He offered no practical ways to ensure you’re not distracted, other than to pull over for everything.


So here we have two ways to be “safer.” Keep your kid rear-facing until at least two even if they hate it and scream and cry and vomit. Never drive while there’s something distracting going on in the car.

There’s sometimes NO WAY to do both. And then you have to do what you have to do – you have to make a judgement call on what’s best for YOUR family, recognizing that there are risks both ways. And all the judgey comments in the world aren’t going to help a family who’s earnestly trying to do what’s safest.


When Teddy was still in the infant seat, I put him in the passenger seat for our weekly trips to Iowa City. He cried constantly, vomited, choked, etc. so much that we were better off with him up front with me. Was it a risk? Yes. One that I didn’t take lightly and one that was discussed with his doctors (for those of you who do not know, Teddy has medical issues), who agreed that overall, for him, passenger seat was safest.Nowadays, in his convertible seat (still rear-facing, not because I’m necessarily hung up on keeping him there until 2 but because he’s still REALLY TINY), when he’s not sleeping, he’s sometimes screaming his heart out, and sometimes vomiting. It’s VERY distracting. It’s extremely hard to focus on driving when he’s back there screaming. (For the entire two hour ride to iowa city and the entire two hours back, and no, I can’t safely tune him out, what with his aforementioned health problems, and honestly, he can’t be allowed to vomit a whole lot just at this particular point in his life, either, or there won’t BE any driving home from IC, because we’ll be staying for dehydration. If any of you people rushing in with your judgey comments from the linked blog care to learn more, Teddy’s blog is linked in my sidebar. Otherwise, you may keep your ignorant comments to yourself.)

Unless you’ve driven with a toddler who’s really screaming, I don’t think you can fully understand how distracting it is. Teddy’s is not bad enough and constant enough that I feel I need to do anything about it just yet, but if he did it constantly every time we were in the car? Yeah.


The whole thing – the blog post and the radio piece – also makes me think about all the other ways we allow our kids to take risks, or we take risks on their behalf. I wonder if the blog author has all of her furniture screwed into the wall joists. Does she ever let her toddlers climb up into chairs? Does she take her kids to the doctor for every concern? Failure to screw furniture to wall joists kills kids.  Falls from furniture kill kids. Undiagnosed serious illness kills kids. It’s black and white. The furniture bolted to the walls is about as black and white as it gets, far, far more than extended rear facing. But every family assesses their own risk tolerance and goes from there.


My point here is not anti extended rear-facing. It IS safer, yes. I am in favor of it. But it’s not always safer, all of the time. You have to look at the complete picture.

And I’m sick to death of all the judgy “my way is the only way” crap out there.


2 responses to “Distracted Driving and Rear Facing Carseats

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