As parents, we all want to keep our children safe at all times. What we might not realize is that one of the biggest risks is having our children in the car with us. Even when kids are in an approved safety seat, there are dangers.
However, making sure your kids do have an appropriate safety seat and are buckled in the right way goes a long way, but the following are some specifics to know about keeping kids safe in the car.
First, your child should always be in the right place in the car. This means for kids under the age of 12, they should be in the back seat in a child seat or with a seat belt.
For older kids, always wearing a seatbelt is absolutely critical. For example, NHTSA data shows more than half of teens who die in vehicle crashes weren’t wearing a seatbelt.
Along with having the right sized seat and having your child bucked up properly, the seat also needs to be installed correctly to be effective.
Talk with Your Kids
Beyond the logistics, you need to talk with your kids about how they can help you make sure you are all safer when you drive. Be age-appropriate in how you speak to them.
When your kids are younger, try to get the message across to them that driving takes a lot of concentration. Let your kids know that you need their help to make sure that you all stay safe, and give them a sense of responsibility as part of this.
Create rules that your kids can understand as well because you don’t want them to create a situation where you’re distracted while you’re driving.
We often think about distracted driving as something that stems from using our cell phones or putting on makeup behind the wheel, but kids can very much lead to distracted driving.
To alleviate this, along with talking to your kids and setting up rules, there are other things you can do.
For example, try to plan on how to entertain your kids.
If you’re going to take a longer road trip, try to have another adult with you to help you.
Audiobooks and fun music are also good options for kids.
Enforce the Idea of Natural Consequences
When you’re driving, you’re probably used to your kids dropping things and then expecting you to pick them up.
Don’t do that.
Instead, help your kids understand that if they drop something, they are responsible for picking it up while you’re driving. They may have to wait, and you need to make sure you stick to that rule. Otherwise, your kids will get stuck on the idea they can drop and throw items and no matter what you’ll just get them for them.
You can usually see patterns in your kids’ behavior when you’re a parent. For example, your kids may be more likely to distract you when you’re driving if they’re hungry.
Think about their triggers and plan ahead by feeding them before you get in the car or bringing some snacks.
Keep Yourself Calm
If you’re feeling angry and frustrated when you’re behind the wheel, it can impair your driving and your focus.
You want to make sure that you are keeping yourself calm as much as possible.
Take deep breaths, and if you have to, train yourself to block out your kids while you’re driving.
If you get too angry, not only is it a distraction, but it may also cause your kids to get more wound up than they would have if you’d ignored them and stayed calm.
If you’re driving, and particularly if you’re doing so because you’re on a road trip, you may have luggage and other heavy items in your car. You need to make sure these are secured, and if you are in an accident that they’re not going to fall onto your kids or hurt them.
To secure heavy items, use cargo anchors, or place these items on the floor of the front seats.
Finally, if all else fails, it’s better to pull over if you’re worried about your ability to drive with your kids in the car. It may take you a little longer to get to your destination but it can help you collect yourself and take care of whatever issues your kids may be experiencing, rather than risking getting into an accident.