With the advent of summer means more opportunities for families to hit the open road. Whether a short trip to Grandma’s or a long drive across the country to some family-friendly destination, you need to be attentive to safety as you take your family on a road trip. No matter how old your kids are, these tips on hitting the road with kids will help not only keep them safe but also keep them comfortable on the road.
Check the Car
Before you head out on the road, do a once-over of the car. Good tires that are properly inflated, fluids topped off on the engine and an inspection of the belts and hoses will help prevent side-of-the-road breakdowns, which will add unwanted hours to your trip and increase the chances of a collision.
Proper Car Seat Installation
Before hitting the road with kids, have your car seats inspected. A properly installed car seat can reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers, according to SeatCheck.org. Car seat safety is not something to take lightly, yet some vehicles are quite challenging to install a car seat in properly. Having yours inspected will ensure that it’s properly installed.
As you consider the position of your car seats and the way your children fit in them, look at how your child’s head will fall if he falls asleep. Will he get a crick in his neck? You can add a head support to prevent this from happening. Just make sure the head support does not compromise the safety of the seat and seatbelts.
Many parents try to limit their children’s fluid intake on the road. After all, they don’t want to be stopping every few hours for potty breaks. Limiting fluids can lead to a surprising problem, though.
When kids don’t get enough water, they can get dehydrated quickly. While a child isn’t likely to get dangerously dehydrated on a one-day road trip, barring any illnesses, they can get mildly dehydrated. This can weaken the immune system, create a severe case of crankiness and make the trip less enjoyable for all. Keep a leak-proof water bottle handy for each of your kids so they can stay well hydrated.
Plan for Regular Breaks
No matter how careful you are, your kids are going to need to use the potty, and they will probably need to do so more often than you. If you try to make them wait, you can create bladder problems, so it’s best to just plan the stops. Not only do regular stops give you the chance to use the facilities, but it also gives your kids the chance to stretch their legs. These breaks will allow the circulation to flow, which will limit risks of blood clots and also help kids burn up some energy.
Keep Careful Watch
Children are prone to wander off, especially when in a new environment with interesting things to see. Make sure you can see your children at all times, or at least know exactly where they are. Predators are often waiting in areas where families travel frequently, looking for an unattended child to snatch. The last thing you want is to be faced with a lost child in an unfamiliar area.
Keep Kids Entertained
Keeping kids entertained does more than just protect the sanity of the driver and adult passengers, it also keeps everyone safe. Whining, noisy children can distract the driver, which puts everyone at risk. AAA indicates that over a million and a half car accidents every year are due to distracted drivers, and a full 24 percent of those are due to drivers who are distracted by their children. This is a risk not worth taking. Plan an arsenal of activities and interesting diversions for kids, who get bored easily on long road trips.
If your child has a small video game player, this is a great time to buy a new game for it. If your child can read, invest in some new books. Non-readers or those who get sick reading in the car may enjoy books on tape. Games that get kids looking out the window and watching for things on the road are also helpful. If all else fails, invest in a video player for your vehicle and some new movies.
A road trip with your kids is an opportunity to spend time with your precious little ones, so don’t take it for granted. Do what you can to minimize potential problems, make plans for your children’s health and safety along the way and sit back and enjoy the ride. They are only going to be little for a while, so grit your teeth through the “Are we there yet” questions and enjoy the chance to see the countryside with your children safely strapped into the back of your vehicle.