Traveling with children can be fun for them and for you. But with the normal demands of care-giving, you have an added responsibility to keep the kids safe on the go and that can lead to extra stress if you’re not sure what to expect. While you may not have control over other drivers, you can make sure that children are properly protected in your own car. Let’s face it, even when you are driving alone in the car, it can be hard to focus, so is it any wonder that adding kids to the mix can make driving more challenging? Whether you’re breaking up a fight in the backseat or listening to loud conversations between siblings, you can easily have your attention pulled from the tasks at hand.
Here are simple steps to take to make sure children are safe and they enjoy at all times in and around vehicles:
1.) Buckle up – It seems so simple to do, but some people still don’t use seat belts despite the overwhelming benefit of doing so. Studies have shown that seat belts are responsible for saving 329,715 lives in the last 50 years. So make sure then your children use the seat belts.
2.) Know their place– Children 12 years and under should always ride in the rear seat in an appropriate child seat or with the vehicle’s seat belt.
3.) Make sure children use the proper car seat and that it’s installed correctly- To make sure your seat is installed correctly, carefully follow the instructions that came with it, or look online if you’ve misplaced them. Learn the right age to move your child up into the next car seat, but don’t be in a hurry. With every move up to the next level you give up a little bit in crash safety. Bear that in mind no matter how much your kids complain that their friends are in boosters already, or have moved on to using just the vehicle’s seat belt. Keep them in a child safety seat appropriate to their height and weight.
4.) Secure gear– Any loose odds and ends in the car can become dangerous projectiles if you have a crash or even if you just have to jam on the brakes. Don’t put anything remotely heavy on the package shelf behind the rear seats. Secure loose items in the trunk using cargo anchors. Put heavy items on the floor or as far forward in the cargo area as possible. Don’t put anything on top of the cargo pile that could fly into the seat area. People can become projectiles too. Unbelted rear-seat passengers can fly forward in a crash, injuring both themselves and people up front.
5.) Never leave children alone in or around cars– Children die every year from heatstroke in vehicles. Be vigilant to make sure you know where your child is at all times and leave reminders for yourself that a child is in the back, such as a toy on the front seat or briefcase or purse in the back. That way you must look in the back before leaving the car.
6.) Don’t text and drive– We all know the allure of the beeps and buzz of cell phone notifications, but resist the temptation to read and respond to messages. Put your phone in airplane mode, turn down the volume, shut it off, or put it away. Distracted driving not only puts everyone in a dangerous situation, but it teaches young people bad habits. You can expect your kids to behave exactly as you do when the time comes.
7.) Bring entertainment– Usually, entertained kids are quieter kids, so bring fun toys and activities for the road. You can set up a DVD in the back of the minivan or provide activity bags with coloring books and travel games but, whatever you do, provide age-appropriate, engaging entertainment options that will appeal to your kids. When they know they’ve got something to play with, they’ll be less likely to make their own entertainment by fussing with one another. Don’t forget a varied selection of suitable films that would interest toddlers such as cartoons. You can also download some movies in your tablet or iPad. If you have pocket or mobile WiFi, it is easier to browse movies on YouTube or NetFlix.
8.) Prepare goody bags – Prepare a goody bag before the trip which can consist of books, toys, sweets and games. If you have a toddler make sure you carry a bag of necessities for the baby like diapers, food and a toy to keep them occupied.
9.) Stop frequently– Especially on long road trips be sure to take frequent breaks. Let your kids run around, stretch their legs and burn off some pent-up energy so they’ll hopefully be a little more tired in the car. Wear them out a bit so they end up sleeping all throughout the trip.
10.) Bring snacks– Eating is another activity to take up time and keep the kids happy, so you’ll want to pack good snacks for the road. Avoid high-sugar treats that will lead to inevitable sugar rushes while you’re traveling, though. Instead, opt for healthy, wholesome snacks that your kids will still enjoy.
11.) Make up a car fairy– Invent a car fairy who loves car rides and leaves little presents or clues in the car especially for little people. Grownups are not allowed to be visited by the car fairy though.
12.) Stay strong– Whether it’s your 6-month-old or your toddler who’s sitting in the backseat, it’s highly possible there will come a time when your child gets frustrated with being stuck in his or her seat and won’t stop crying. If you know your baby isn’t wet, hungry or in danger in this situation, you may just need to wait it out. Do your best to stay strong and ignore the crying; eventually it will stop.
By being cautious, attentive, and safety minded with children, you can help to make sure they stay safe in and around vehicles and by keeping them busy, fed and entertained you can ensure they have a great and enjoyable trip.