To say parents spend a lot of time behind the wheel is a huge, huge understatement. Between shuttling kiddos to daycare, school and karate/gymnastics/ballet, moms and dads log some serious mileage. So when you shop for a new car, here is a smattering of car tech you should consider to make that schlepping go more smoothly.
Rearview cameras are invaluable. These devices are a second set of eyes when backing up, and they eliminate blind spots, too, which helps a lot when you live in an area where kids run around. According to advocacy group Kids and Cars, at least 50 children are being backed over by vehicles every week in the United States.
The cameras also assist with parallel parking by showing how close you are to vehicles next to you. For those of us who never seem to back in smoothly, this is a tremendously helpful feature.
Since it's a big no-no to let your fingers do the dialing, Bluetooth for hands-free calling is imperative for parents who are toting around precious cargo. Twelve states -- plus D.C. -- have banned the use of handheld cellphones, and 41 have a no-texting law, as well. Bluetooth couldn't be easier to use, and it's available in most new cars. It connects to your smartphone wirelessly, and you simply press a button on your steering wheel or dash to chat away. Some systems operate via voice command, too, upping the safety factor even more.
Touchscreens are another must-have. As the car's main hub of infotainment, you can easily make calls, fire up a toddler-friendly station on Pandora and find out if you have enough fuel to get you to that Gymboree class without speeding.
A dead smartphone can really throw a wrench in your errand runs, so a USB port is another essential feature. It's great to be able to power your phone and other devices as you dart in and out of soccer games and grocery stores, as well as bring up your favorite playlist from your MP3 player or phone. Just be sure to keep that device out of sight so you aren't tempted to sneak a peek while driving.
Finally, the blessed tech that has transformed the lives of directionally-challenged parents everywhere: in-dash navigation. You can shell out roughly $1,000 for a factory-installed nav unit when you buy a new car, or drop anywhere from $100 to $400 on a portable GPS device. The lower-end models get you where you need to go, while the pricier versions are incredibly intuitive gadgets that give turn-by-turn directions in a conversational voice, call out landmarks and offer quick and simple reroutes (for those all-important ice cream detours, of course).
Technology can't give you more hours in the day to get stuff done, but car tech can make carting around your bambinos safer, easier and a lot more fun.