Guest Post by Riley Clark
Rule 1: Use the Correct Car Seat and Correct Installation
Our experts were unanimous about the most important tip to keep your child safe while driving: make sure that they are in the correct car seat with the correct installation. There are so many different car restraints out on the market. It can feel overwhelming to keep up with the changing car seats and safety precautions.
Lucy Harris, mom and CEO of Hello Baby Bump, shares, “As your child gets older you will have to go through a few different restraint devices that ensure they are secured in the vehicle. Ideally, you want to keep your child in a rear-facing restraint until roughly 1 years old and they reach the weight and height limits of the seat. Then transition to a forward-facing seat with a harness until your child is 5 years old, or meets the height and weight limits of the harness. Next is to use a booster seat, this allows the seatbelt in the car to fit across your child properly. You should continue to use a booster seat until the seat belt fits properly which is around 4’9 (145 cm).”
Joseph Hoelscher, a child welfare lawyer in Texas, comments on the importance of using the correct car seat: “The number one thing is to use a properly installed and age/height/weight appropriate car or booster seat. In fact, this is so important that failure to do so carries civil and criminal penalties in most states. In Texas, parents without a proper car seat can be denied visitation with their children, unless they can arrange appropriate transportation. Parents who transport a child without a proper car seat can be fined, or, if the child is injured, charged with felony child endangerment.”
Rule 2: Keep Your Child Entertained
Keeping your children entertained during a drive is crucial. Fighting, crying, and screaming can be distracting while driving and it is important that you, the driver, can give your undivided attention to the road. Pack toys, snacks, and games before you get in the car so your child will be occupied during your drive and you can keep all your passengers safe.
Mom blogger at Welcome to the Circus, Jenny Hartley, advises, “Toddlers and preschoolers trying to grow their independence need to know that seatbelts are not toys and are not to be played with while driving. One easy way to help prevent this is to provide those busy hands with a few special toys to play with in the car. This can also help keep everyone calm in the car which is a huge benefit to parents!”
Rule 3: Set Firm Rules
Your children need to learn from a young age the importance of car safety and always wearing a seat belt. Be firm but loving with your children when it comes to issues of car safety.
Tiiu Lutter, a parent and co-owner of a children’s family counseling center shares her insights: “The first rule for everyone in the car is, ‘seat belts are on before the car is on.’ Kids don’t actually need to know that you can turn on the car without wearing a seat belt until they figure it out themselves. You have to wear yours, too; modeling is critical.” She continues by saying, “I am a really big fan of pulling over and waiting. You will only need to do this a couple of times. When your child unbuckles, immediately pull over and notify everyone in the car that it is impossible to drive until you are all safe. Ideally, you pair this with a calm, cheerful message of love and concern that they might be injured — ‘I love you so much, it would break my heart if anything were to happen to you, so I cannot possibly move until everyone is completely safe.’”
Rule 4: Keep Your Children Safe By Being a Safe Driver Yourself
If you don’t worry about the quality and capability of your own driving, then none of these tips will be of much help. Keep your eyes on the road, make sure you are awake, focused, and sober. Keep your kids safe!
Jenny Hartley further warns that “parents must choose to be intentional about the way they interact with technology in the car. We depend on our phones for so much more than texting that it is not as simple as putting them in the dashboard. Yet we can make more intentional choices as parents, such as enabling Bluetooth and installing proper phone mounts for navigation purposes that allow us to remain hands-free and put our children’s safety first.”
Joseph Hoelscher adds that you should “not drive with a child with any degree of alcohol in your system. Texas and most states elevate a DWI/DUI to a felony when a child is present. Worse, most child protection agencies (CPS) view DWI with a child passenger as a potential justification to take your kids. Parents would do better to spend their money on a Lyft for them and their kids. Defending a DWI and a CPS case typically costs $20,000 or more. If a child is injured as a result of DWI, the process is more expensive and will take around two years. Also, you may not get your kids back.”
Another aspect of being a safe driver is to ensure that your vehicle is well-maintained, up to date, and running smoothly. Don’t let odd sounds or smells go ignored. They could be a sign of more serious underlying vehicle issues that could leave you and your child stranded at the side of the road.
We understand that vehicle repairs can be expensive, especially for new parents! That’s why some drivers turn to extended vehicle warranties or vehicle protection plans, which help cover the costs of unexpected vehicle repairs.
The Bottom Line
As a parent, learning all you can about keeping your children safe while driving will reduce the risk of injury or accident and also help your children understand that car safety is important. Knowing you are doing all you can to ensure the safety of your children will give you peace of mind and help you enjoy the precious time in the car that you spend with your child.
Riley Clark is a writer who manages the car warranty blog at BestCompany.com.