Back in February 2020, as a soon-to-be first-time mum and a member of IAM RoadSmart, I had so many fears going through my mind as my due date crept around the corner. “What if I go into labour in the car?...What if I’m screaming in the car on the way to hospital and it distracts my other half from the road?... What about the drive home?... How do we drive home with a tiny baby in the car without panicking?!”.
Thankfully, on the day the baby came I got to the hospital with no issues. In fact, my little one didn’t make an appearance until eight hours later. The screaming in the car? Well, that definitely happened (a lot) but my partner handled the situation very well and focussed on the road and got us there safely. Me on the other hand…I was a complete mess by the time we arrived at the maternity ward.
Several hours later though, it was time to take little Rohan home. We put him in the car seat - carefully chosen days before to be the best, safest option for our newborn - and he looked tiny. His obvious vulnerability me feel even more anxious about his safety during the drive home. We were so grateful that the midwives had offered to check the car seat before we left to ensure straps were correctly fitted. Since we were so nervous about taking our little one home, this gave us the reassurance we needed.
When we slotted the car seat into the Isofix base – a standard fitting system for baby and child seats, used across nearly all modern family cars - I checked the straps about five or six times before taking a breath and hopping into the passenger side next to him. This was it. My whole life had changed. I had this little person who was fully dependant on me, and my focus and priority – for the rest of my life - was now to keep him happy, healthy and safe.
And that of course included keeping my son safe during his journey home.
My car had passed its MOT the week before, and I had been doing my POWDERY checks everyday which gave me peace of mind for the trip back from the hospital.
And on the actual journey, even though I was only the passenger, I continuously used my advanced driving techniques, keeping my eyes on the road and looking out for potential hazards. Some could call it annoying, but I like to think of it as being extra cautious (and maybe on high alert after the adrenaline of becoming a mum).
I was constantly looking in all mirrors to check for motorcyclists, cyclists and vulnerable road users. In my mind I was keeping note of cars that could be in our blind spot on the motorway. I was aware of the amount of space between us and the vehicles in front and behind us. And I was always conscious of the limit point. Could we see beyond that corner? Did we need to take the foot off the brake and gradually slow down?
Although my partner didn’t know (well…apart from the one or two pieces of advice I gave him!), I was using the IPSGA technique and regularly observing, anticipating and planning.
I had passed the Advanced Driver Course a few months before, but it was only during this drive where I really appreciated the skills and techniques I had learnt. I had been applying them on a daily basis since passing as a matter of course, so using them when I was feeling anxious in the car managed to ease my nerves. It gave me something to focus on and took my mind off my worries. And it helped keep us safe on the road.
A year after having my lockdown baby and I’m (mostly) confident driving with him in the car. There are still times where I feel anxious, such as when taking an unfamiliar route, but I remind myself that I can do it if I carry on using the advanced driver techniques. And when my little one is calling “mama” from the back of the car, I take into account the skills I gained when learning how to manage distractions.
Although I am returning to work after a year of maternity leave, throughout the last 12 months I’ve regularly read up on IAM RoadSmart’s latest tips, because even the best drivers in the world can always benefit from refreshing their driving knowledge. I’m still not used to the idea of having a one-year old, though!
By Junique Aujla, IAM RoadSmart’s Digital Content Manager