Unfortunately, along with the magic of holiday travel comes an increased number of traffic accidents — and, in fact, auto crashes are the top cause of death of children under 14, according to AAA and the Auto Club Group Traffic Safety Foundation.
The good news is there is plenty parents can do to maximize their family’s safety as they set out on their holiday travels this season. Here are five safety tips recommended when driving with children.
- Focus on the road. This sounds like a no brainer, but how many times have you been tempted to glance in the back seat to tend to your children, especially when they’re fussing? AAA cautions against giving in to this temptation, as looking back significantly increases the chance of a crash. Did you know that taking your eyes of the road for as few as five seconds is like driving the length of a football field, including the end zones, blindly?
- Keep both hands on the wheel. Parents are adept at multitasking, but don’t try to drive with one hand and tend to your child with the other. If you need to help your child pick up something, such as a toy or cup, find a safe place to pull over. Wait until the vehicle is stopped before looking or reaching in the back seat.
- Discuss passenger safety with kids. Bring your children into the discussion. Let them know they can help create a safe riding environment by not distracting the driver.
- Model safe driving behaviors for your children. Children learn by watching their parents, so show them safe driving habits by changing a few of your own. Avoid eating and drinking or talking on the phone while driving, for example, and above all, never text or look at your phone when you’re behind the wheel, even when stopped at a red light or stuck in traffic.
- Check your child’s seat regularly. Whether it’s a car seat or a booster, make sure the seat is the right size for your child — remember how fast children grow — and that it’s installed correctly and the straps are tightened properly every time. Remember also hand-me-down seats, whether your own or a friend’s, may no longer pass safety regulations, adjusted over time. If you’re not sure, check the make and model of your seat online for any updates.