According to the official UK Government statistics, around 176,000 people were injured in a road accident in 2017, with just over 1700 of those resulting in death. This highlights that despite improvements in vehicle safety and road safety awareness, we still need to stay vigilant to avoid car accidents. This is especially true when it comes to taking care of your kids when driving.
The good news is that there are plenty of products and good practices that minimise the chances of a child being hurt should you be involved in a road accident.
Off we go!
Ensure seat belts are fastened
Although in the UK we are very good at buckling up for car journeys, it is easy to forget to check that the seat belts are fastened correctly. This is especially true if your children are upset and crying, you’re in a rush, and stress levels are reaching stratospheric levels. The little things are easy to forget. With this in mind always ensure your children’s seat belts are fastened. Also teach them the importance of the seatbelt to make sure they do not unbuckle them once they are old enough to do so.
Texts and other electronic distractions
When discussing texting while driving over a civilised meal, we would more than likely say we'd never dream of looking at our phones while behind the wheel. That said, it can be tempting to take a peak while at the traffic lights especially if we are waiting for an important text.
It goes without saying that looking at electronics, even sat navs, while driving is out of the question and poses a serious safety risk to your child. Phones can be set to read text messages if it is urgent and you can answer phone calls using your voice, so no need to take your hands off the wheel or eyes off the road. Turn the sound on the sat nav and it will tell you where to go.
If you need to put in a new postcode into your sat nav, find a place to stop and enter the new details. You can then be on your merry way again.
Make sure doors are locked
Children have an uncanny knack of exploring and as such it is a constant source of amazement what they can discover. This includes opening a car door if they can reach the handle. Many vehicles have child locks built in. Ensure your car’s rear doors are secure before travelling.
If your child needs a child seat then ensure you have one fitted. In the UK there are particular laws when it comes to children's car seats and which type they require at certain ages and weights. Designed to help your child travel in comfort and safety, they secure your child reducing the risk of injury considerably. Child seats save lives. Ensure your child has one until they are big enough to use conventional seating.
Never buy secondhand car seats as should they have been involved in an accident they will not be able to offer the same level of protection as they could when new. Also, follow manufacturer’s instructions to the letter when installing the car seat. If you do this incorrectly you are putting your kid’s life in danger.
Roll bars and other vehicle aspects
Some vehicles that are a little unusual need a bit more attention and thought to ensure child safety. It is good practice to pay attention to relevant parts, such as the anti-roll bar in convertible vehicles, or where the crumple zone is on older vehicles. Older, more unusual cars such as VW camper vans often seat passengers in the crumple zone. Fitting the right parts and seating your child in safer areas of a car could save their life.
Keep your children occupied
If you are going on a long journey ensure your children have things to do and play with. Being asked questions, ‘are we there yet?’ as well as requests can be very distracting and make your blood pressure and stress levels spike. With this in mind, keeping snacks handy is good practice to keep your kids busy while you keep your eyes focused on the road.
Adult partners and friends become invaluable at keeping kids amused so you can concentrate on driving the car.
Games such as I-spy can be played as you do not need to take your eyes off the road to join in. Colouring-in, books and iPads with headphones can also be lifesavers!
Check tyres, oil, and coolant regularly
Try and get in the habit of checking the tyres, oil, and coolant levels regularly. Tyres work best when pressures are at their optimal level whilst oil and coolant are essential to the smooth operation of your vehicle. It is good practice to check the screen wash levels too as not being able to see clearly puts your children’s lives in danger when driving.
Never leave children unattended in your car
Although there are times where you just need to pop into a shop for ‘two minutes’, you should never leave children unattended in your car. It is unthinkable to think of your car being stolen or hit while parked with your kids inside it. Not to mention one of your kids releasing the hand brake. Never leave your kids unattended in your car.
Staying safe whilst driving is important for all of us, but even more so when we have children in the car who rely on us for their safety.
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