You may have read Part One of our Driving with Children article, but here are some more essential bits of information you should consider before heading off on your travels.
CHECK UP ON LAWS
Last year, the law changed regarding the suitable car seats for children of different ages and sizes. The law requires all children travelling in the front or rear seat of any car, van or goods vehicle to use the correct child car seat until they are either 135 cm tall or 12 years old. After this, they must use an adult seat belt.
For those of you who are planning on driving to and around another country, it is important to brush up on your knowledge of the local laws regarding motoring.
Did you know, in Italy you’re not allowed to drive in flip flops? Or that in France, you are required to keep at least one high-vis jacket available to hand in your car (not in the boot!) at all times, in case of an emergency?
Make sure you’re clued up on all the relevant legislations in order to keep you compliant with the law – you won’t want to scare the youngsters by being reprimanded by the police.
Driving with children is also the perfect opportunity to enforce road safety to help them to understand the importance of being extra careful on the roads.
DRIVE WITH ANOTHER ADULT OR OLDER CHILD
With RoSpa reporting that children and babies can distract driving, it may be beneficial to carry an extra responsible passenger, where possible, to tend to them while you’re driving.
On the motorway, in particular, pulling over is scarcely an option, unless there is an absolute emergency. This makes it difficult for you to check in on your backseat passengers, should they require your attention.
Having an extra pair of hands, and eyes, with you on your journey will take a great deal of stress off your shoulders, knowing that you won’t have to worry too much about the mischief they’re getting up to. This allows you to stay more attentive to the roads ahead.
COMFY CLOTHES AND SPARES
Buttons and stiff materials can be really uncomfortable at the best of time, but while stuck in the back of a car for hours on end, the discomfort can become unbearable – especially for children.
Ensure that kids are kitted out in loose, elasticated clothing to avoid digging and chafing.
It is also worth packing a spare pair of clothing for the journey. Wet wipes can clear up most stains, but when it comes to clothes stains, they may not suffice. Wearing wet, stained or sticky clothes will only make the children more irritable, which is best overcome by being prepared.
This also applies to nappies for babies. Be sure to dress your babe in a fresh nappy before the journey, and check and change at regular intervals.
Travel sickness is a burden that no one should have to bear. Where adults are much abler to tolerate such ordeals, children may not be so resilient.
It won’t always be possible to pull over, and doing so will cause frequent delays in the journey, which could lead to more restlessness.
Carrying sick bags in the car with you will save your interiors from becoming stained, and will also allow you to cut down the amount of times you have to pull over. Zip top bags are best, as these will prevent further spillages, and help to control any unwanted odours.
Wet wipes, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizers and black bags will help to clean up the area further while you’re on the move. This is also where having a spare change of clothes to hand is useful!
Of course, prevention is far better than cure. Mints, Dramamine and peppermint oils can all help to avoid car sickness.
Eating too much before a journey can also make children sick, especially if they don’t save enough to time for digestion. Avoid feeding children heavy foods before setting off, and allow adequate time between eating and setting off.
Bored children tend to fidget and play with things they shouldn’t – including door handles! Make sure you take precautions to ensure your children do not risk harm. Should your car have 5 doors, ensure the back seats are child-locked to ensure your little ones don’t try venturing astray.
Most importantly, in order to keep your children safe on the journey, you need to be confident that the vehicle you are driving is completely up to the job. Breaking down on a motorway with children is not only inconvenient but potentially dangerous too.
Top up vehicle fluids, ensure your tyres are inflated and make sure your car is roadworthy before carrying your children across, or out of, the country.
Your local Trust My Garage member will be able to prepare your car for your summer travels. Head to www.trustmygarage.co.uk to find your nearest trusted garage.
Have fun and stay safe!
The summer holidays are finally here!
For most, this means an extra 10 minutes in bed, reassured by the fact that there will be far fewer cars on the road during the morning commute to work.
For others, however, it means six weeks of quality time with the munchkins.
The summer break is the perfect way to escape the mundane routine of school runs and smelly PE kits, with many opting for some sort of summer getaway.
Jetting abroad can be costly and hectic, so more and more Brits are opting for UK breaks in sites such as Devon, Cornwall, and the Lake District. For the more venturous, willing to drive the engine further afield, ferrying into mainland Europe is also a favoured alternative to flying.
Of course, both of these options means long road trips are in store, which, for parents, can equate to a long, sore headache.
With RoSPA reporting that 21.5% of drivers are distracted by babies or children while on the road, here’s how to keep sane during your lengthy journeys with the kids.
TRAVEL AT NIGHT
Simply put, the best way to keep the children from whining and throwing tantrums during your journey is by making sure they’re asleep the whole way. Most children have a set routine during term time which means that, despite having no school to wake up for, they’ll be used to drifting off at a certain time. This is the perfect opportunity to set out on your travels as, not only will their state of slumber allow for a more peaceful journey for you, but during the evenings, the roads are far more likely to be quiet.
If this is not an option, then there are always ways to encourage your nippers to kip outside of their usual bedtime. How about tiring them out before the journey? Taking a long walk, keeping them up late the night before, and getting them to dance to their favourite songs are all ways to burn the energy they’d otherwise use to occupy their boredom during your travels. Lavender will also aid this. Stocking up on lavender oils and scents, and dropping a few squirts onto their seat will have them relaxed and soothed in no time.
KEEP THEM OCCUPIED
It’s no secret that children tend to get very bored very quickly. On a long car ride, it won’t take long before they’re fidgeting and fussing out of restlessness. Fortunately, there are plenty of activities to keep your children occupied, even during the longest of journeys. What’s more, you can get involved in the fun too! Here are some of our favourite options:
- Bringing along their favourite toys
- Arming them with activity packs, colouring books and word-searches
- Playing verbal games as a family, including I-spy, How many lorries and I went to the market…
- Map spotting: Get them to track where about you are on a map, this way you won’t have to hear the shriek of ‘Are we there yet!?’
- Carrying their favourite books and perhaps encouraging them to role play their favourite characters
REWARD GOOD BEHAVIOUR
Every child likes prizes. In fact, everybody likes prizes. The great thing with children is that the rewards need not be extravagant giveaways. Sweets and treats are great ways to encourage good behaviour. In moderation, though, to avoid a catalyst to hyperactivity.
The key thing is to let your children know the behaviour that is expected of them during the trip. Try writing out a checklist of fun car rules, showing the type of behaviour mummy and daddy expect on the journey. These don’t have to be strict or formal – in fact, children will be far more likely to abide by rules if they’re presented in a fun and humorous way, especially knowing they could receive a treat for being good boys and girls.
Taking breaks is essential during a long journey. Not only will it allow you to take in some of the great views along the way – but it’ll also stop the fidgeting and complaints of a numb bum.
Children tend to get hungrier easier, and will put all their efforts into making it known! Breaks are the perfect opportunity to make sure they’re fed and hydrated as eating in the car is best avoided; not only could this end up being really messy, but potentially hazardous too! Should the car jolt or brake suddenly, children could end up choking on food; while strapped up in seat belts, it is much more difficult to come to their aid. Instead, it is safer, and much more fun to take a picnic stop.
Service stations can be relatively expensive, so why not get the kids involved by setting up some picnic nibbles beforehand?
Thanks to tablets and portable DVD players, children can now carry their favourite films and programmes with them wherever they go. Most systems also allow users to download and install games, apps and audiobooks too, which should just about keep the little ones occupied for hours.
This option does require some preparation beforehand though. Unless you are fortunate enough to have a system with internet data, most tablets will require some sort of internet connection. To avoid disappointment, pre-download any apps and games at home before setting off on your journey. Also be sure to check the tablet is fully charged before leaving, to avoid batteries running out too soon into your journey.
Nursery rhymes and cheesy pop may not be the ideal playlist for mums and dads, but the children will certainly enjoy them. Who can really complain when a singalong to The wheels on the bus is saving you from the shrieks and screams of restlessness?
Get all the family in on the action, and make it a real musical treat. Children love to be involved, and seeing mummy and daddy enjoying a bit of a warble will provide them with great amusement.
CARRY WET WIPES AND TISSUES
Children can be messy. While on the roads, it won’t be possible to tidy up after them, even when you do get the twitch to do so.
Keeping wet wipes and tissues at hand will provide a quick fix for sticky hands and spills as the kids should be able to tidy up themselves. This will help to protect your interiors from permanent stains of spills and leaks.
PLAN YOUR JOURNEY
Car journeys can be stressful in any case, but not knowing where you’re going can be even more traumatic. On a long trip, getting lost will only make both you and the children irritable. Although most car owners have shunned the road map, and put all their trust into the Sat Nav, it is important to familiarise yourself with the route beforehand – just in case!
Sometimes Sat Navs can be a little bit untrustworthy, especially where new roads are concerned. Doing your research beforehand can prepare you for any diversions or changes to your trip.
It may also be beneficial to carry a road map in your glove compartment to prepare you for any electronic or technical issues with your navigation device.
Don’t make your journey any longer than it needs to be.
There are plenty more hints and tips for driving with children, click for Part Two of our article!
Every parent will know that their child’s safety and security is paramount, especially when they’re in the car. Despite the efforts that parents make to ensure their children are safe, there are some horrifying statistics that show that some just aren’t taking the right precautions when driving their little angels around. According to the Child Accident Prevention Trust, twelve children under the age of 10 are killed or injured as passengers in cars every day, but this can be greatly reduced with the help of our easy-to-follow advice.
5. Drive more slowly
This might seem like an obvious thing to do, but when you’re in a rush it’s sometimes only natural that you’ll put your foot down. No matter how soon you’ve got to be somewhere, or however late you’re running, you should always drive at a safe and legal speed. Increasing your speed might mean you arrive at your destination a few minutes earlier, but the difference between a few miles per hour can mean the difference between life and death.
Remember that the speed limit is the absolute maximum speed you can drive at, and it’s not always necessarily a safe speed to drive at, especially when conditions are challenging.
4. Invest in the right seat
You must be aware of the law that surrounds your child’s safety seat and you must also know when they need to be changed or upgraded. You’re legally required to put your child in a seat until they’re either 135cm or 12-years-old, whichever one comes first, though this is just a guideline, and often it’s safer if you keep them in one for a bit longer.
Infants must be sat in a rear-facing seat, and it’s always far safer if they’re put in the back of the car. You can have your rear-facing seat in the passenger side of the car but only if there’s no active frontal airbag.
The reason that these seats are rear-facing is because they provide greater protection for the baby’s head, neck and spine than forward-facing seats. Adult seatbelts aren’t designed for children because they don’t sit on the right parts of the body, so never just presume that it’s safe for your child to have a seatbelt on. Holding a small baby in a car crash at 30mph would be like trying to lift eight bags of cement at the same time, so make sure they’re properly strapped up, even if you’re embarking on a short journey, which is when most accidents occur.
Once a child reaches the age of nine months they can be seated in a forward-facing child seat with an integral harness; the large part of harness will help to reduce the risk of injury if the car crashes, while the bottom attachment helps prevent the child from slipping out of the seat.
Only move your child into a booster seat once they weigh between 15 – 25 kgs (33 – 55 lbs) or roughly 4 to 6 years, and a booster cushion once they weigh between 22 – 36 kgs (48 – 79 lbs) or are between 6 and 11 years.
If you have a modern car it will probably have “Isofix” mounting points for a child seat. This is a significantly better method of attaching a child seat than the vehicle’s seatbelts and should always be used where possible. You will need a compatible seat and your local Trust My Garage member will be able to help you select the right model.
You should never buy a second-hand seat for your child because it can be impossible to tell if a seat has been damaged in an accident or dropped. It’s always far safer to invest in a new one, but make sure that it fits your car before you buy it, because not all seats will fit all cars.
3. Get into certain routines
There are a number of routines that you and your child should get in the habit of following, including getting your child to exit the car on the footpath side, rather than the roadside door. It’s so important that you take your child with you whenever you leave the car, even if it’s just for a minute, because whenever your child is out of your sight there is the chance of an accident happening.
You should always keep your car keys stored safely and hidden from your children. We all know how naturally inquisitive children are and if they find a set of keys they might try and emulate you and get in the car and start it up. The best place to store them is somewhere only you can reach. You should also remove your car’s cigarette lighter, if it has one.
2. Carry out regular checks
To help reduce the risk of your car breaking down, and the inevitable problems that can cause, you should carry out regular checks on your vehicle. A simple way of remembering exactly what to check is to follow our POWER acronym, which stands for petrol, oil, water, electrics and rubber (tyres).
You don’t need to be a technician to carry out these simple checks, and once you get into the routine of doing them fortnightly you’ll start following them like clockwork.
For more information, head to our POWER blog which shows you exactly what you should be looking for. Remember, these checks might just be the difference between a safe journey and your child becoming a road accident statistic.
1. Get your car serviced at a Trust My Garage member
While these checks are vital in ensuring your car is safe for both you and your children, there’s absolutely no substitute for getting your vehicle regularly serviced at a trusted local independent garage.
Putting your car in the hands of trained professionals will help ensure problems are detected at an early stage, and will hugely reduce the chances of your car breaking down, which can cause potentially dangerous accidents.
Put you and your child in safe hands. Find a garage you can trust by entering your postcode into our online garage finder.