(USA TODAY) -- New mothers talk on the phone, text or check e-mail at an alarming rate whiledriving with their babies in the car, a newly released survey finds.
Although they're otherwise protective of their young children, the surveyfinds, 78% of mothers with children under age 2 acknowledge talking on the phonewhile driving with their babies; 26% say they text or check their e-mail.
The survey from the child-protection advocacy group Safe Kids Worldwide andAmerican Baby magazine finds that the new mothers' behavior rivals thatof teenage drivers.
Cellphones weren't the only distractions for the new moms. Nearly two-thirdsof them said that they've turned around to deal with their baby in the back seatwhile driving.
The survey of 2,396 mothers finds an attitude among new moms that isreflected in the general population: They tend to think they're safe drivers butactually engage in risky habits.
Among the mothers, 63% say they're more cautious behind the wheel sincegiving birth, but that's not reflected in their behavior.
"Everyone wants to think they're a good driver, especially when they're amom," says Laura Kalehoff, executive editor of American Baby. "You pickout the safest car seat, the safest crib, and you want to feel like you'remaking the right choices. They thought they were being better drivers, whiletheir behavior showed otherwise."
Nearly 10% of the surveyed mothers, who drove an average of 150 miles a week,had been in a crash while driving with their babies - a crash rate nearly threetimes higher than that of the general public and one that closes in on the crashrate of teen drivers.
The crash rate for miles driven for 16- to 19-year-olds is four times as highas the rate for drivers 20 and older.
"We get in the car, and we assume that whatever we were doing when we weresitting in our home or in our office can just carry forward while we'redriving," says Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide.
Carr recommends that all drivers leave their phones in the back seat whiledriving and that parents pull over and stop if they need to deal with a child.She says new moms wouldn't engage in risky driving practices if they realizedthe potential danger.
"That's depressing," says Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of AAAFoundation for Traffic Safety, of the survey's findings. "People have become soaccustomed to being connected all the time that they are resisting the safetycommunity saying you shouldn't be doing that while driving."
Kalehoff, 36, says the idea to study new mothers' driving habits grew partlyout of her own experience. In 2007, when her son, Julian, was 9 months old andher family had just moved to suburban New York, she was rear-ended after shedrove through a stop sign, then stopped a few feet later.
"I knew I was too tired to be driving," Kalehoff says. "My mind was in placesother than the road. That experience changed me as a driver. I signed up, at age31, for refresher driving lessons with the local driving school. I thought:'This probably isn't an uncommon problem. Let's see what new moms are doing.'"