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Editorial: Young moms show high rate of distracted driving

Jan. 25, 2013 @ 12:08 AM

Americans seem to be in denial about the dangers of phoning or texting while driving.

Even safety conscious young mothers.

A new survey by the Safe Kids Worldwide and American Baby magazine found that 78 percent of mothers with children under the age of 2 admitted talking on their cellphones while driving with their babies or toddlers. Even more alarming, 26 percent of those moms said they text or check email while they have that precious cargo in the back seat.

Keep in mind that with the boom of mobile devices in recent years, there is plenty of evidence these driving distractions contribute greatly to accidents and injuries.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates drivers who are texting are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash.

More than 3,000 highway fatalities a year are attributed to distracted driving.

39 states have banned texting while driving, including West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.

But these young moms -- like teen drivers and many older drivers -- have not made the connection.

"Everyone wants to think they're a good driver, especially when they're a mom," Laura Kalehoff, executive editor of American Baby, told USA TODAY. "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."

Their driving records show otherwise, as well.

About 10 percent of the 2,396 mothers surveyed said they had been in a crash while driving with their children. That is a crash rate three times that of the general public. Yet, most of those moms surveyed said they felt they were safe drivers and even more cautious since giving birth.

Changing their minds won't be easy. Some states have had some success with pilot programs aimed at distracted driving -- coordinating spotters and traffic stops to ticket drivers using their phones. Informational public service campaigns also are under way in many states.

But the best motivation comes from family and friends. Remind loved ones to put those mobile devices aside while driving and turn off the sound to reduce the temptations. Back that up by not calling family and friends when you know they are driving.

When it comes to highway safety, staying focused on the road is more important that staying connected.

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