Driving with a baby on board

Blog post posted on 23/01/18 |

This week’s blog is from guest author Dionne Wilsher, who writes about her experience of driving for the first time with her new born daughter in the car.

As a new mum, I was excited to take my baby to visit my family and friends, but I also felt slightly wary driving my car for the first time with my little girl in the back. I was anxious about the drivers around me – were they speeding? Or getting too close to the back of my car? I have always been a careful driver, but now I had even more reason to make sure my car – and my precious cargo – stayed safe on the road.

And of course, before I even started the engine, a key concern was making sure my child felt relaxed and secure in her car seat.

There’s a lot of information about choosing the correct car seat for your baby, so I made sure I took care finding the right one that was comfortable and safe. I went with a well-known, trusted baby brand where I was able to read dozens of reviews from parents on a variety of different websites and follow the instructions on fitting the seat exactly.

I was a little tense the first time I put her in the car, even with two ‘baby on board’ signs stuck to the window. I remember checking my mirrors more than usual and taking extra care to make sure there were no moving vehicles nearby before I pulled out. I had definitely become more conscious of my driving. And when I got on the road, I drove slower and was aware of other road users. I broke a lot more softly when coming to a stop and checked my back mirrors more regularly than I had done before.

Even though I had my eyes on the road, I was constantly worrying about my baby, especially when she cried. I felt so helpless, as she couldn’t tell me what was wrong, and I couldn’t see her. On one occasion I could hear that she was in a lot of distress, so I pulled over in a safe place to check on her and discovered that her hat was covering her eyes. This led to me buying a mirror so I could see her safely in my rear view mirror, while still remaining focussed on the road. This gave me peace of mind that my daughter was happy and comfortable while we were driving.

The first time I went on the motorway with her was scary. I had done this commute so many times on my way to work, but I felt a lot more nervous with a baby in the back. A lot of thoughts were going through my mind like what if someone pulls in front of me without indicating? What about the cars beside and behind me that were going over the speed limit? To be sure I was safe, I stayed in the slow lane where I was able to take my time and grow my confidence in driving on a motorway with a baby on board. This really helped. But later, while I had got used to familiar journeys, I had not quite plucked up the courage to drive further afield if I did not know the route.

So, as it had been a while since I passed my driving test, I chose to take on a couple of IAM RoadSmart e-learning modules to boost my confidence. I selected the Managing Distractions and Motorway Driving modules. Managing Distractions was a really good recap of how the smallest thing, like taking a sip of coffee, can affect your driving. One of the module’s interactive exercises highlighted how something as simple as switching on my lights could have an impact on my reaction times. It brought home how I always need to take care when driving and to allow extra space between myself and the vehicle in front.

The Motorway Driving e-learning module was great for refreshing my driving knowledge. I was already aware that I needed to brake earlier in wet weather, for example, but had forgotten that the braking distance between my car and the vehicle in front of me should be two seconds when driving on a dry road, and at least four seconds on wet surfaces.

I think the e-learning modules are great for those who want to refresh their skills in driving as they’re easy to follow, interactive and engaging. As a new mum, I found that the modules were a good tool to remind me of the important factors I need to consider when I’m on the road.

Now that my daughter’s five months old, I enjoy being able to take her out to visit friends and family, so it’s great that I have my confidence back and know that - by keeping my driving skills refreshed - I am keeping her safe as I can when we’re on the road.

For more advice about driving as a new parent, click here.

IAM RoadSmart's e-learning modules will be available soon. Please check the website regularly for more information.

By Dionne Wilsher, IAM RoadSmart's guest blogger