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!
If you are a parent with a child under the age of 16, you may be feeling a little stressed right now. This time of year is difficult and expensive for parents preparing their children for the start of the new school term. There’s such a lot to think about; uniforms, equipment, textbooks, bags, new shoes – and that’s just for starters. The last thing you are going to need is for your car to breakdown on you during the infamous school run!
About one in five cars is driving a child or children to school in rush hour traffic and with the five million primary school children in the UK living on average of one and a half miles from their place of learning, it means there are a lot of cars on the road doing short journeys, five days a week. These driving conditions can cause much more wear and tear on your vehicle than you would imagine and no busy parent wants the stress or expense of a breakdown at this time of year.
Being aware of what causes damage to a vehicle can help reduce the risk of a breakdown or failure during the school run. Here are our top tips to shield you from unexpected repair costs as the kids go back to school.
Make sure your engine is properly lubricated.
Most school runs are quite short journeys, which means that the engine on your vehicle does not have enough time to warm up properly. Engine oil has to reach its full operating temperature in order to lubricate properly This is more likely to be achieved over faster, longer journeys.
What’s the solution?
Let your car ‘idle’ for a few minutes before you begin your journey and this will help your engine warm up ahead of your drive. It will also help to warm, your car up once the cold nights start to draw in. Remember though, don’t go back inside your house while your car warms up – it only takes a few seconds for a thief to take advantage of an empty vehicle.
Concentrate on reading the road.
Hurried braking causes greater wear on the brake pads, which will lead to more frequent trips to the garage.
What’s the solution?
Rather than stopping and starting in traffic, slow down and concentrate on reading the road. By driving more slowly and anticipating when you need to stop, especially around the school environment where young people are likely to be crossing the road, you will apply less pressure to your brakes and gears. This will also help you to save fuel.
Keep an eye on your engine warning and DPF lights
If you drive a diesel vehicle, your are more likely to find your vehicle suffering from engine management problems if you frequently go on short journeys in your car. This is because of the diesel particulate filter (DPF).
The DPF, which traps larger soot particles within the filter and allows smaller particles and gases to escape, can only operate efficiently once your vehicle is driven at 45mph for more than five minutes.
Stop/start driving and motoring at slow speeds means that the soot accumulates and the DPF cannot create sufficient heat to regenerate. Once the soot concentration reaches about 75%, it will need to be looked at by a professional to be regenerated. Don’t ignore the engine warning light if your diesel car is used mainly for short journeys!
What’s the solution?
Make sure you get your car to the nearest Trusted garage if your engine warning or DPF lights start flashing on your dashboard. This is an indication that there is something that needs attention and if ignored, could incur costly repair expenses. In fact, any warning light illuminated on your dashboard is a signal that your vehicle needs some expert attention. If it’s orange you need to contact your local Trust My Garage member as soon as possible – if it’s red, stop the car and call them IMMEDIATELY
You can find your nearest Trust My Garage member by entering your postcode on the Trust My Garage website, here.
Independent garages have access to the same technical information and training as main dealers and are fully equipped to service any type of vehicle to the highest standard, providing you with outstanding value for money.