Spring is upon us!
And for most families, the turn of the season means trips to beaches, nature trails, and other bustling attractions.
If going on a road trip is part of your spring break to-do list, you will want to read this post on child safety tips and reminders for families traveling by car.
1. Always Take The Car Seat
Our family has a simple road trip policy:
Either we take my daughter’s car seat, or we don’t go at all.
You may have the steadiest of hands when driving, but no one can ignore the risk of vehicular accidents and crashes. Worse, however, the seat belts found in cars are designed for adults. Harnessing a child in one can even cause serious injuries.
An appropriate child safety seat solves both problems. It’s built for little tots and reduces the risk of life-threatening injuries during crashes in infants by 74% and toddlers by 54%. Simply put, not bringing a car seat when on the road doesn’t make any sense.
On the other hand, a car seat is only as good as the condition it’s in. So when planning a long-haul road trip, we always…
- Make sure the car seat is in good condition. We look for any cracks or damage, as well as loose parts. We also review the seat’s expiry date every now and then. If you want to know how long your car seat is good for, you can find the expiry date on the back or bottom of the seat. Or, you can contact the manufacturer.
- We also double-check the installation. As a rule, you shouldn’t be able to move the car seat by an inch in whatever direction. A tight installation job ensures the safety seat does its job.
For good measure, you can take your seat to a CPS (child passenger safety) technician. A CPS-certified and trained expert can provide one-on-one personalized instruction and run safety checks to your family.
2. Bring Some Kid-Friendly Entertainment
“Are we there yet?”
Kids only take only 49 minutes and 47 seconds before they start asking the dreaded question. And unless you can distract them away from the fact you’re not even halfway, the little tots are likely to throw a tantrum.
Not only are tantrums annoying, especially in close quarters. They can also take your mind away from the wheel, and that’s always a dangerous thing.
Fortunately, an iPad or tablet can keep the boredom at bay. From creating digital paintings, playing with their favorite cartoon characters, to side-scrolling games. You can bet there’s an app for whatever tickles your child’s fancy.
Just make sure your device has enough charge in the tank. Few things can drive kids nuts as much as a tablet running out of battery!
Of course, low-tech and travel-friendly options are also welcome.
Audio books, small doodle boards, and grasping toys are safe and mess-free toys which make for an excellent companion during road trips.
Oh, and do bring healthy snacks, too.
3. Pack An Emergency Kit
The car breaking down in the middle of nowhere is the last thing the family wants to happen.
Carry out essential maintenance before the trip, making sure the car is in working shape. Change the oil, replace the tires, and double-check the battery’s life. But even after all that prep, your vehicle may still stall.
In such situations, you will want to have an emergency kit with the following contents:
- Water: Hydration may not be easily available when you’re on the road. So pack enough water for the rest of the family.
- Blankets: To keep everyone warm at night.
- Kid-friendly insect repellents: The DEET variety is still the most effective in warding off bugs. But they can be unsafe depending on the age of your child. If you want something a natural and kid-friendlier option, look into picaridin-based repellants.
- Portable first aid kit: The kit must contain the essentials including bandages, gauze pads, child-safe pain relievers, antiseptic and antibacterial wipes, and any medication you may need.
- Roadside assistance kit: It has everything you need to keep your head above water during road mishaps - from battery booster cables, reflective safety vests, warning triangles, to car repair gear like tire pressure gauge, multi-function tools, and more.
And one last tip:
Make sure you have important contacts handy. Your phone must have the contact number of your roadside assistance plan (ex: Good Sam), emergency services, and friends or relatives within the area. Put them on speed dial even.
4. Never Leave A Child Inside The Car Alone
Your most precious cargo should never stay in the car alone.
For starters, having an unattended child with the keys in the ignition only courts disaster. A kid starting the engine and rolling away with the car looks funny only in movies.
Moreover, know that a car’s interior can heat up in no time. For children under the age of 14, heatstroke inside a car is one of the leading causes of deaths linked to vehicles, just next to crashes.
The weather’s nice?
It doesn’t matter.
The temperature outside may be pleasant, but the temperature inside a car can get to dangerous levels fast. Hot days are even worse, and the insides of a parked car can get 40°C hotter than outdoor temperatures.
So if you need to leave the car, be sure to take the kids with you.
5. Praise And Reinforce Positive Behavior During The Trip
Kids are full of energy - always wanting to run, squeeze into nooks and crannies, and get up close with stuff that piques their curiosity. Imagine having all that enthusiasm and being forced to stay put inside the car.
Definitely not the easiest thing to do for a child!
So if your little tot is behaving nicely, let them know they’re doing a fantastic job.
Say something along the lines of: “I like driving when you stay put and behave. Good job!”
Doing so not only makes a child feel good. But praising the little ones for a job well done also reinforced the positive behavior. Do it enough times and kids will know to stay calm and not fiddle with the locks the moment they step into the car.
6. Stay Off Of Your Phone When Driving
Distracted driving due to smartphone use is one of the leading causes of car accidents, accounting for 52% of wrecks.
On the other hand, staying off of your phone is easier said than done.
People spend an average of 5 hours/day on their mobile devices, and this reliance on technology has conditioned us to reach for our smartphones the moment the ringtone goes off. And the consequences can be lethal.
Turning off your phone may be out of the question. But you will want to turn your device on ‘silent’ before getting on the car. You can also download an app that sends an automated message when you get a text message or a call. Or, you can put the phone away from plain sight, like, say, in the trunk or glove box.
The strategies above can only help you so much. At the end of the day, your commitment to focusing 100% on the road ahead and not letting the phone distract you matters the most.