Working moms cited as a traffic safety issue

April 14, 2000

Working mothers may be the next target of price gouging by the insurance industry. According to the Michigan State Safety Commission, working mothers are considered a "traffic safety issue." The Michigan study claims the busy and hectic lifestyles of working mothers may be the cause of certain traffic hazards.

cont. from lifestyle

So that's why we moms favor gas-guzzling Suburbans and large mini vans with reinforced steel frames, high-tech car seats, front, rear, side, upper and lower airbags. I thought we were a safety-conscious group, a demographic concerned with protecting the lives of our children regardless of the cost.

But no. It appears we are simply rushed and reckless.

The Michigan State Safety Commission queried 600 Michigan residents by phone and found that college-educated women between 30 and 45 years of age admit they more frequently speed, run late and change lanes improperly than drivers as a whole. Read that sentence again. I suggest that we are just more honest in answering surveys.


"This comes down to a lifestyle issue," said Col. Michael D. Robinson, director of the Michigan State Police and MSSC chair. "Working parents often juggle schedules of work, day care, doctor appointments and after-school activities."

I have to admit the study may be on to something.

Why just this morning, I loaded my three children into my car, 17.5 minutes behind schedule. No time to defog the windows.

"I'll wipe as I go," I decide. I blindly back out of my driveway mowing down a section of newly planted flowers blooming at the edge of my yard.

As my rear wheel hit the dip at the edge of the driveway, my coffee cup tipped, spewing hot coffee all over my pants and across the floor of the van, which was shampooed last week for the first time in five years. No time to stop. I dig around in the glove box and discover some unused paper napkins left over from a recent McDonald's visit and clean what I can.

"Barney tape," comes a request from the rear. "Barney tape. Barney tape. Barney tape. BARNEY TAPE!"

With a purple dinosaur singing in surround sound, which alone is enough to make any parent drive into a ditch on purpose, I stretch to feed a Pop-Tart to my toddler tightly strapped in his car seat behind me. My arms are too short to reach him, but with careful aim, using the rearview mirror, and a quick twist of my upper torso, I effectively toss the Pop-Tart in his lap.

"Mom, you didn't sign my homework," my 7-year-old accuses. He waves the paper in front of him. I reach again to the rear, stretch like a rubber band and pinch the paper between my fingernails. I sign it, fold it into a paper airplane and send it flying back to a wildly impressed second-grader.

"Wow, mom. You're the greatest."

I'm exhausted, and I've only traveled three blocks.

Once the children are delivered to their appropriate destinations, I feel more focused on driving, so I eject Barney, flip on the radio and glance into the rearview mirror to check my makeup. Noticing that my eyebrows need attention, I try to hit a red light so I can pull out my tweezers and pluck.

The coffee stain on my pants leg is beginning to dry with the help of the car heater.

Next, I decide to make a quick call on the cell phone to my husband to verify the day's schedule. But first, I have to find my cell phone.

Digging in the bowels of my purse while driving is another distraction. My hand fumbles for Pop-Tart crumbs as I realize I missed breakfast.

The parking deck is within sight now, so I begin my usual search for my parking pass. I check the usual places: my purse, the glove box and the sun visor. But I discover it under my seat, where all good french fries go to die.

I'm lucky; my drive to work is only 2 miles. How do folks handle commuting?

Just for the record, the Michigan survey does report some good news. The same group of rushed and reckless parents are more likely to insist that passengers buckle up. No wonder!

JoEllen Barnhart is assistant to the director for Frostburg State University's Hagerstown Center. She has three sons.

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