Is It Safe to Lip Read Your Kids While Driving?








I have a horrible confession to make. While speeding down the highway at lightning speed, I converse with my three kiddos…by watching their lips through the rearview mirror.

My oldest son sits up front and has a deep tone to his voice that is easy for my ears to hear. But my youngest son and 8-year-old daughter in the backseat must yell or kick my seat to get my attention while driving. Scary and unnerving. When I scold them for being rude, they continue blabbing away to me.

“LOO AH AH,” my girl says.

“Huh?” I glance at her through the rearview mirror.

“Look at me,” she repeats with careful enunciation.

Thus begins our roadway conversation. My eyes alternate between the striped lines on the highway and my daughter’s sky blue eyes in the backseat.

“Do you wanna go to—”

“Wait,” I interrupt her, “can’t talk now.”

A semi-truck attempts to merge into my lane. I speed up before my mini-van collides with it and makes us both subjects on the 6 o’clock news.

The banter with my kids consists of, “Not now. I have to keep my eyes on the road,” and “There’s a stoplight. Okay. What do you wanna talk about?”

By the end of our drive, my knuckles on the steering wheel are white, and I have developed the beginning stages of a migraine.

I’ve looked into wearing one of those portable listening devices called an FM system. I wear the receiving end, and my kids each take turns speaking into the tiny microphone. But I’ve heard horror stories about people sneezing or coughing into those microphones so loud that the person on the receiving end literally jumps out of her seat. Not a safe situation for a Lipreading Mom behind the wheel.

So I continue hushing my kids when I can’t lip read them, then encourage their chatter when I get to stop signs. It’s an interesting way to communicate, but it works for us.

In the meantime, my mini-van has the battle scars of my attempts at lipreading while driving: a dented bumper, scrape on the back door, and a missing passenger sideview mirror.

Hey, nobody’s perfect.


CrossRiver Media just published my story, “God Speaks on Bumper Stickers.” I am excited to be working with CrossRiver publisher Tamara Clymer on my upcoming book Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom. Do you want to know how bad my driving skills really are? Take a look at my CrossRiver story (and my mini-van) to find out!


15 thoughts on “Is It Safe to Lip Read Your Kids While Driving?

  1. Now this is scary. Please, please, please be careful. I’ve seen the results of metal on metal when cars “kiss.” It ain’t pretty.

  2. Oh! I know how this goes! My 3 yo will kick my seat repeatedly when he wants my attention, and then it’s a combination of signs and lipreading. So many times I’ve had to tell him, “Wait, honey, mommy doesn’t know what you’re saying because I have to watch the road.” It can be frustrating for both of us. One car trip, it got late and dark and the poor kid… I could hear just enough to know he was really upset and crying, but I couldn’t see him well enough to know what he was saying. I have learned that either I get my inside light fixed, or we don’t do long trips in the dark anymore.

  3. Believe seeing sign language at rear mirror and passenger side are more safe than lipread at rear mirror. Read sign language communication on rear mirror much easier for me and do not distract me while I drive cuz I keep my eyes on the roads. The communication of sign language go faster than read the lips that causes you miss some.

    • Karen – That’s a wonderful idea. As I polish up my signing skills, I will continue to practice them when needed in the car. My daughter is the one who loves sign language, so she and I can practice together. Blessings, Shanna

  4. Forget about the possibility of being startled by a sneeze or cough. You need an FM system. It is the safest way for us lip reading Moms to drive and hear.

    I have been using FM systems for the past 5 years. My 9 year old son refuses to get in the car with me without it. In fact he is the one who carries the darn things around. The FM system puts his voice directly into my ear. He rarely has to repeat his questions and no longer has to wait until the next light. I love hearing the conversations taking place in the back seat between my son and his friends as we carpool from football practice to home or my son when he spontaneously breaks out is song. These are priceless moments. Without the FM system I would be missing all of it.

    The FM system that I use is by Phonak. I have the Inspiro and the Smartlink +. Here is a link for more information.

    Happy Hearing!

    My story-
    Gradual bilateral hearing loss over the last 30 years due to otosclerosis. I have been profoundly deaf for the last 8 years. I wear a hearing aid in my left ear and have a Cochlear Implant in the right ear (2/2011).

  5. Wow! I can’t imagine how hard that would be! I am not familiar with FM systems, but its a good idea. I alson thought of other assistive listening devices, or looping your vehicle.

  6. My kids are grown now, and even when they were young they understood that communicating with me in the car simply wasn’t an option. However, my mother STILL doesn’t get it and insists on accompanying me on a 1500 mile road trip in September. I expect to end that trip with the mother of all migraines and a possibly irreparable relationship with her. Considering that thirty years after my hearing loss was diagnosed she still tries to talk to me with her back turned, from another room, with her hand over her mouth, etc, etc, etc, it’s a wonder we have any relationship left to worry about.

    All that said, I was fitted with Phonak Naida hearing aids in January and the directional microphone really does seem to help quite a lot in the car. With anyone BUT my mother, that is.

    • Deb – I so understand! My husband, who has gotten a lot better, has a soft voice that is nearly impossible to understand in the car. We’ve gotten to where holding hands in the car is a much safer option than trying to engage in extended conversation. πŸ™‚ Blessings, Shanna

    • Dear Deb,

      I completely understand. My Mother behaves the exact same way. It is sad that they choose to just not get it. Rather than expose yourself to unnecessary pain and risk more damage to an already fragile mother/daughter relationship. You might think about planning a different, much shorter trip with your mother. One intended to improve your relationship and take the 1500 mile road trip with yourself.
      Connect those great Nadia hearing aides, through the use Phonak FM system, to your Ipod or other device and enjoy a good audio book and
      some great music as you cross this great Country.

  7. I am several days behind with this response. The FM might work for you, if you can comprehend speech without lip-reading, but if not, don’t count on peripheral vision letting you know what’s going on in the road. Fifteen years ago, I ran into the back of a car which was shoved into the back of a bus that had stopped for a railroad crossing. To this day I have no idea why the school bus was so slow; it happened on a country road and I was aware of both the bus and the car in front. My son was making delightful faces, and I was watching him in the mirror I had placed on the dashboard, specifically to lip-read him. I was fully confident my peripheral vision would alert me to danger, and it would have if their had been movement. But it doesn’t work for motionless vehicles. I was fortunate there were no serious injuries. Extremely fortunate. Extremely!

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