Tips & Tricks for Parents

Safe Driving with Children

24 Feb, 2015

My daughter, as I have reported before in these blogs, loves music - and so do I. And one of our favourite places to listen to music is in the car. You can turn it up, sing along and no-one can see or hear you, well I hope for their sakes they can’t any way. Every time we sit her in the back seat, pretty much the first thing she says is ‘can we listen to …’ with anything from the Frozen soundtrack to obscure Wave Pictures albums filling the gap. But lovely as it is to sing shared favourite songs along with my child, I find it very easy as a driver to get distracted, fiddling with controls, changing CDs and so on (I know, CDs are so last millennium). 

OK, so music is a big one for me, but in fact anything that takes your attention away from the act of driving can be fatal. Changing a radio station, leaning over to pick up a dropped toy, telling off a noisy child in the back seat … the list is very long. I always try to pause and think before instinctively reaching for the water bottle my child is asking for, or opening the electric window for them – is it safe to do this now? Can it wait until I stop or at the very least until I slow right down? As I write this, it seems obvious, but I know how easy it is to automatically respond to a child, after all most of us do it all the time when we’re not in the car!

Children themselves can be very distracting in the car, particularly if they’re tired, bored or uncomfortable and constantly wanting your attention. This can be a particular problem on longer journeys, of course. You can help by getting them to play games such as I Spy (this is also good for helping to avoid car sickness as it gets them looking out of the window). Just make sure that you are not distracted by the game yourself! If you make sure that they are warm and comfortable, especially on long trips or night-time journeys, they will be more likely to sleep and less likely to complain. A comfortable car seat is essential, and you can also consider using one of our travel sleeping bags, which are especially designed for use in car seats. This will keep them cosy and helps them to settle because they are used to sleeping in it at home. You can view our range of travel bags here.

OK, so what else do I need to remember when driving? Well, there’s seat belts, of course. My daughter insists that she can do it herself, but the one time I trusted her to do it, I was horrified to discover when I got her out of the car that the belt, which correctly plugged in, was loose and wouldn’t have been much use in a crash. Now I always strap her in myself and test the belt to remove any slack. If I have to ignore my child’s protestations that ‘SHE CAN DO IT!’ then so be it – better that she’s safe, even if I have to suffer a tantrum!

My children are now past car seats (although one still uses a booster), but I can’t stress enough the importance of getting a good car seat and, just as importantly, of fitting and using it correctly. A poorly fitted seat can be almost as bad as no seat at all, so read the instructions carefully. Sometimes shops will offer to fit the seat for you, but you should make sure that you can do it for yourself because you’ll have to take it out to clean every now and again. Likewise, be aware of the regulations for using car seats and booster seats, which you can find here: Deactivating front seat airbags is something that many people don’t know how to do, so make sure that you know how this works if you’re going to sit children in the front seat. I always carry a spare booster seat in the boot too, just in case I have to take a friend from school home for a play date. It may be tempting to think ‘it’s just a short journey, I don’t need a booster’, but just take a moment to imagine what the consequences could be. It’s not worth the risk! I can also easily give the seat to another parent if they are taking my child anywhere.

Finally, make sure you use your car’s built-in safety features, for example switch on child locks for doors and electric windows, if you have them. And one other tip - when your daughter is shouting ‘overtake that car Daddy!’ on the motorway, ignore her. Safe driving everybody!