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How to Drive Safely with Kids in the Car

Any time you’re on the roadways, and behind the wheel, you face some serious risks. For example, you may often be sharing the road with massive commercial trucks that are much larger than your own vehicle. You also have to be mindful of weather and general roadway conditions and be a defensive driver to protect yourself against other people on the roads. 

If you have kids in the car, you’re increasing all of your roadway risks because there are so many more distractions. At the same time, when you have your children in the car, you also want to be the safest, most vigilant driver you can be. 

With those things in mind, the following are safe driving tips, especially for when you’re with your kids. 

Car Seat Safety

Make sure you’re aware of car safety guidelines and best practices and that you’re following them every time you drive. For example, children should stay rear-facing for as long as possible, and at least until they’re two. You also want to make sure that if you’re using a forward-facing car seat that it’s tethered. 

Until kids pass what’s called the five-step test, they should stay in a booster. That means you check to ensure their back is against the vehicle seat, their knees bend at the edge of the seat, and their lap belt is on top of their thighs rather than their bellies. You should also make sure that their shoulder belt is between their neck and shoulder and that they’re able to sit correctly. 

Most kids need a booster until they’re between the ages of 10 and 12. 

Talk with Your Kids About the Rules of the Road

If your kids are old enough to understand, you should go over the rules of being in the car with them frequently, especially before long road trips. 

For example, they should wear a seatbelt every time they’re in the car, and kids should stay calm and quiet when they’re in the backseat. 

Have discussions with your kids so that they know how important it is that you can concentrate when you’re driving. If your children break whatever the rules are that you set up for when you’re driving, they should be aware of the consequences, and you should enforce them. 

Strategize for Longer Trips

If you’re going on a more extended trip, you should have a strategy in mind to keep your kids occupied as much as possible. Maybe you bring along things that will entertain them, or you could put on an audiobook. 

Think about when it’s most likely that your kids will start to misbehave and prepare ahead of time. For example, maybe your kids tend to be grumpiest when they’re hungry. If so, bring healthy snacks with you and have them ready. Maybe your kids start to misbehave when they’re tired, so be prepared with calming music you can put on to lull them to sleep, hopefully. 

Don’t Inadvertently Reinforce Bad Habits

If you’re driving and your children are throwing things into the front seat, and you keep picking up the items to give back to them, they’re going to learn this is an effective way to get your attention. You don’t want that, so make sure that you’re not promoting this. If your kids are doing something problematic, then you should ignore it as much as you can. 

When your kids aren’t behaving well, try and stay calm. Don’t react with negative energy because this is then how your kids are going to respond to you, plus it’s going to increase your stress levels. 

There are times when you should just ignore your kids completely when you’re driving. Don’t try to deal with discipline if you’re behind the wheel. 

Instead, wait until you can pull over, and then you can handle it. The threat of stopping the car may be enough to get your kids to change whatever it is they’re doing. 

If you do need to pull over, while it can be annoying to go through the effort, it’s the safest option, and it will let your kids know you’re serious. Finally, depending on the situation, you might also use rewards and punishment to get your kids to behave in a way that will help you be the safest possible driver. For example, if you’re going on a road trip, maybe you promise a treat when you make it to your destination.

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Last modified: October 30, 2021

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