Top tips to keep you and your kids happy on the road
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  • Safety First - When Kids Are In The Car
  • 18 April 2017
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    Safety First - When Kids Are In The Car

    Here are some tips and tricks to help keep you and your precious cargo safe and sound! We’re sure you’ve got some tips and tricks of your own and would love to hear all about them. Tweet us your top road trip tips @HowardsGroup

Becoming a parent means all kinds of things in your life change. You are now responsible for another person, which whilst daunting, is a very special experience. Aspects and attitudes change, and, included in this, is your approach to driving!

Whether leaving the hospital with a newborn or helping them on their way to passing their driving test, the instinctive response in both cases is to make the situation as safe as possible. Eradicate and minimise anything that could prove risky! The introduction of kids into the driving experience also means the unavoidable occurrence of distractions. So, alongside the increased responsibility to be safe on the road, you’ve now got a screeching baby and/or the sulking teenager flicking through every single radio station at a rate you’ve never witnessed. (Side note: Don’t despair, it’s all worth it in the end, promise)

 We’re going to have a look at the key safety tips as well as some tricks to make that journey easier and safer for all.

Update driving Knowledge

When you have a child or newborn in the back of your car you naturally become more cautious and aware of safety on the road. This is why it’s key to brush up on your driving knowledge and make sure you can remember all the key information you learnt when learning to drive.

The easiest way to do this is to test your knowledge by taking a road sign quiz or mock theory test. Re-learn any of the questions you fail to answer correctly and keep re-taking the tests until you get everything correct.

Child Car Seats

If you’re a new parent, you need to get familiar with the laws around child car seats to ensure maximum safety. The law on child seats last changed in March 2017, and it requires all children travelling in the front or rear seat of any car to use the correct child car seat until they reach the height of 135cm or 12 years old (whichever comes first). After they have reached one of the above, they must move on to using an adult seat belt. These rules are there to keep babies and children as safe as possible, which varies on the age and height of the child. The new laws from 2017 affect the new purchase of backless booster seats for children shorter than 125cm or weighing less that 22kg.

So, let's get down to the nitty-gritty. Here are some tips to bear in mind when choosing and using a car seat.

  • Yes, a child can legally travel in the front seat but it is safest for them to travel in the back. One of the reasons for this is the passenger airbag, this must be turned off it a child's seat is fitted in the front passenger seat.
  • It’s extremely hard to tell if a second-hand car seat has been damaged in any way, buying second hand is not particularly safe and does not offer the best safety to your child. It’s best to avoid second-hand seats unless perhaps it’s from a family member or friend who can guarantee there has been no damage.
  • Make sure your car seat is fitted quickly and easily, this will remove any temptation to not use them. Most accidents happen close to home, so make sure you use the right child restraint even on those short journeys.
  • Make sure the seat is fitted properly in every vehicle you may use it in. Make sure it does not move to the front or the side and if it doesn’t seem quite right then try it in a different position.
  • Check for ISOFIX attachments. They are more secure and easier to use. This feature is usually available in new modern cars.
  • i-Size car seats were introduced in July 2013. It is the EU safety regulation for child seats. It made them easier to fit, offer more protection and are safer. Interestingly, they keep the child facing rearward for longer. It is important to get an i-Size compliant seat.

And, just to put this all into perspective here’s our 'Did You Know?' Section

  • Children under 3 cannot travel anywhere without an appropriate restraint
  • Trying to hold a small baby in a car crash is the equivalent of trying to lift 8 bags of cement at the same time
  • If you do not follow the rules and regulations a child can quite easily be injured by the seat belt itself

Make sure you use the correct car seat for your child

There are different chairs for different ages and sizes… here’s what you need to know.

  • Babies (up to 13 kg) Group 0+ seats - babies seats are rear-facing. They are safest in the back seat, should you have to put them in the front make sure the airbag is switched off as this could seriously harm your baby.
  • Toddlers (9-18kg) Group 1 seats - when your baby reaches 9kg it does not mean you should automatically switch up to a forward facing Group 1 seat. Even if your babies feet are pressing into the back seat, it is advisable for them to stay in their seat till they reach the weight limit or the top of their head has reached the top of the seat. Most Group 1 are forward facing, though rear-facing are available.
  • Children up to 12 (15kg upwards) Group 2 and 3 seats - when your child grows out of their car seat they can move onto the next type of seat, usually a booster. A good way to check when they are ready to move on is to see if their eye line is above the back of the chair, if so, they are ready for a booster.
  • It is important to remember that not all car seats fit all cars so make sure you try them out first!

For more information on the rules on child seats in the UK, you can visit GOV.UK.

Use Seatbelts correctly

It’s the driver's responsibility to ensure that everyone in the car wears their own seat belt, and once your child is old/tall enough to be able to legally wear one, it’s good to get them into the habit of fastening and wearing the seat belt correctly. The seat belt should lie across the chest and not on the throat or neck and the lap belt should sit across the upper thighs and not the stomach. If the belt is positioned in these places then the seat belt is correct.

Plan out your journey with your kids

Nothing detracts from the enjoyment of a family trip like unhappy and bored children. Nobody is ever prepared, ready or happy to be met with a 20-minute chorus of ‘Are we there yet?’. Long journeys can be stressful for everyone. Drivers concentration and patience can be pushed to the max whilst passengers (especially the young ones) get increasingly bored and fidgety. If you’ve got a long journey planned this summer (or any other time) with the kids, make sure you do the following beforehand:

  • Pack some drinks and snacks in the car
  • Plan your route ahead to prevent getting lost and also include planned breaks for toilet and resting. It’s recommended that drivers should stop and rest for every 2 hours of driving.
  • Play some easy games in the car such as I Spy, 20 questions, hangman or spot the car. Games like these help make journeys go quicker!

As well as the above, it's also good to set out some ground rules before the journey starts. This is because it can be difficult for children (especially younger ones) to understand that the driver needs to concentrate on the road and not be distracted. Before you set off, state that there will be:

  • No screaming, shouting or arguing when the engine is switched on.
  • When the driver speaks, everyone has to listen.
  • No speaking to the driver if they say ‘not right now’.

Elaborate that activity bag! There are loads of things that are tried and tested, it's just about finding out what works for you and your offspring!

  • Audio books - Starting at about 3, children develop the ability to follow a more complex storyline so audiobooks become a great way to pass time on the road! And, even more convenient, why not give them individual headsets and stories? Everyone is happy and you can listen to anything of your choosing in the meantime.
  • Smartphones, Tablets, Laptops - yes, at home you limit access, nothing worse than sitting with a bunch of zombies glued to screens whilst the sun's shining outside, BUT, if you’re going to be doing some serious mileage, it’s okay to loosen these rules. Get a load of educational, interactive, fun stuff on there.
  • Portable DVD player - this is a sure fire way to make even the longest of journeys easier. Similarly, you could get a film/series on one of the aforementioned devices too!
  • Toys - simple straightforward… Just remember which ones make noise and perhaps leave them behind if you want to hold onto your sanity.

The above are all easy, straightforward and sure-fire ways to keep the kiddywinks occupied! But, keep that activity bag expanding! Variety is the spice of life, or so they say, so here are a few more ideas to keep it fresh!

Handy with a glue gun? Why not try some of these road trip hacks!?

  • Whiteboard and pens - they can doodle and the older ones can play hangman etc
  • Sticker and activity books - The old reliable stocking fillers will come in handy! Great for toddlers, all the creativity without giving them access to upholstery staining pens.

These rules should help minimise distraction so you can keep your eyes on the road.

Our top tip though, relax! We know it’s easier said than done but do your best to stay calm and trust in your abilities as a driver!

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