Driving Safely with Children
We all know the rules of the road, and although some of us bend them quite a bit (no blinker when changing lanes, illegal U-turns, talking on the phone without the use of a hands-free device, and so on) we tend to be extra careful when we have kids in the car. However, some people simply aren’t aware of all the proper safety precautions that may be required when driving with children. You might spend countless hours and hundreds of dollars researching and purchasing the best car seat on the market only to find that you’ve got it facing the wrong direction. Or perhaps you’ve failed to realize just how distracting that cartoon on the rear monitors can be. And many a parent has turned around to shush a couple of fighting kids only to find themselves the cause of an accident. If you’d rather avoid these potential problems on the road, then pay heed to a few basic safety tips to observe when shuttling kids around in your car.
1. Proper seating. It’s important to know when your child needs a particular type of seat and for how long. While the mandates vary from state to state, most require that children up to one year of age (or 20 pounds) be placed in a rear-facing seat. Up until the ages of 4 to 8, children up to 40-80 pounds must use a regular car seat (front-facing) or a booster seat, depending on the state you’re driving in (the general rule is car seat until age 4 or 40 pounds, booster seat until age 8 or 80 pounds). If you’re traveling to other states, you may want to check their laws or simply go by the maximum prescribed usage.
2. Adequate seating. It is NEVER okay to pile in more kids than there are seatbelts. Just because you can fit more than one into a single seatbelt doesn’t mean you should. This practice is illegal and will be met with stiff penalties.
3. Noise reduction. There’s no doubt that getting a gaggle of kids in the car can be a loud and distracting experience. And even if you have rules for the car that include keeping the volume down, there are going to be fights, tantrums, giggling, shouting, and all other manner of excuses for noise-making. That’s just kids. Ultimately, you’re going to have to devise a system of punishment or reward if you want to experience a quiet and uninterrupted drive. Separating the kids as much as possible is also a good bet if you have the room.
4. Entertainment. One great way to occupy kids during a drive (long or short) is to include entertainment. Car games can be fun (albeit messy), but if you have a newer car (or you’re looking to buy one) make sure you have an entertainment system installed. A DVD player with a game station hookup will keep them busy for hours and if you add headphones to the mix, you can look forward to some blissful quiet while you drive.
5. Slow down, leave some space. This is a good idea for every driver, but it is especially important for those with kids in the car. The majority of accidents are caused by drivers that follow too close, effectively cutting their reaction time (which can be compounded by speeding). So make sure to take your time and leave plenty of space between yourself and the car in front of you. You’ll avoid a lot of potential accidents and keep your kids safe.
Sarah Danielson writes for Buy a Toyota where you can find great deals and Toyota Prius from a range of Toyota dealerships in your area.