Keeping your family safe when you’re on the road, whether it’s on the school run, or on a vacation road trip, can be pretty frightening. But then, it’s easy to take road travel for granted, after all, you probably do it every single day. But accidents happen when the correct precautions aren’t taken, the best equipment isn’t used, or you’re not prepared. Children aren’t clued up on road safety until you explain to them the ins and outs. It isn’t as simple as asking them to stay in their seat and stay buckled in, there is far more to road safety than that. Before you get in your vehicle with your family again, make sure you follow this essential guide to your family’s road safety.
The driver is responsible for the safety of their passengers, and there’s nothing else to it. Don’t just ask the children to get in the car and expect them to do their own seatbelts up – if something happens and they’re not buckled in, the onus falls on you. If you’re a happy-go-lucky sort, your family could be at risk in your car. The upkeep of the vehicle is also the owner’s responsibility, so ensuring it has a regular check-up with the mechanic is crucial for the safety of your passengers.
Talk with them candidly
Your family needs to understand road safety, rather than just go through the motions. This means explaining to them why seatbelts are necessary, why they have to sit in their car seat, and why distracting the driver is dangerous. It doesn’t have to come across as scare-mongering – you don’t need to give them all the grizzly details of what happens when they don’t follow the rules. But make it clear that the rules are there to keep them safe, and that breaking them not only puts their safety at risk, but also that of their family members too.
It’s also important that they understand things you might not think of as relevant or necessary, such as the danger of opening the car door while the vehicle is still in motion, although fitting child locks is a good way around that. Explain that playing must be kept to a minimum, as if any toys find their way into the driver’s area it could cause a distraction which could lead to a collision. Once they understand these things, rather than just accept them as a given, their actions will be much more considered, even in really young children.
Lead by example
Your kids are going to learn about road safety by two main avenues: mimicry and education. We have discussed the educational element of road safety already, but the only way to cement this information is by leading by example. If your children see you behaving in a certain way, they’ll be far more likely to continue this behavior – it’s just a fact of life. So if you get into your car and put your seatbelt on straight away, never use the phone while driving, and limit distractions with passengers, the children will soon understand the proper way to conduct themselves. This is the same when you’re around the car or walking by the road – they learn the safest way to cross roads and walk down the street by following your example.
Invest in the best equipment
When you invest in the best car safety gear, you can feel more confident that if something does go wrong, everyone is protected as much as possible. Firstly, if your child is under four feet nine inches, they should be in a booster seat or even a baby seat. This will ensure they are properly held by the seatbelt if a collision occurs. To find the best car seat for your children, check out a review website such as BabySeats for the best on the market. It’s also critical that you ensure it is installed correctly. If it’s not properly fastened in, it could but your child at even higher risk of injury, so follow the instructions carefully or ask your mechanic for advice.
As for the rest of the car, ensure you’re using sun guards for the windows to protect your children’s eyes from bright glare, but also to protect the driver from distraction while on the road. Make sure your seatbelts are in good condition, without knots, twists, or fraying, and replace any which aren’t able to properly perform. Having your airbags serviced regularly can also help to ensure everyone is safe in an emergency.
Make sure the car is in good shape
Taking your car for regular safety checks is the best way to catch any problems before they arise in an emergency. Problems with brake pads, steering or the electricals can be catastrophic if left undiscovered. While most states do not have safety tests written into law, it’s just good practice. It’s a sad truth that a car in a bad condition is more likely to have an accident, and its inhabitants are less protected too, so always get it checked, especially before any long journeys.
Always plan your journey
Knowing your journey inside out, even if it’s a new route, can help to limit distractions greatly. When you’re unsure of which way to turn, and you’re pondering the right directions, you’re not paying full attention to the hazards on the road. Throw in the distractions made by the others in the car, and you’ve got yourself a potential catastrophe. Installing a Sat Nav, and checking for potential roadworks and delays before you start your journey, can really help to limit these problems. It also enables you to properly plan for rest stops and toilet breaks, so you’re never left with whining from the back seat for too long.
Consider the conditions
When you set off on any journey, it’s worth being aware of the potential conditions of your journey – this will help to dictate the route you take, the provisions you carry, and even the length of the journey. If you expect a dry, warm, sunny day, you can fairly safely assume there will be no problems, although you may want to be aware that it could cause limited visibility, requiring you to drive slower. Heavy rainfall can also limit visibility, and even cause localized flooding, which could lead to delays and diversions, so take extra snacks and entertainment. More extreme weather, such as snowfall, should be avoided when traveling long distances with children if possible, as the weather poses particular dangers.
Be prepared for problems
Ensuring your car is well stocked for any problems that might occur is crucial for safety and comfort. A first aid kit, a spare tire, and a fully charged cell phone are all a must, even for shorter journeys. Blankets and extra jumpers are useful to have on hand in case of a breakdown, and a high-visibility coat will make roadside tire changes a whole lot safer.
Be safe outside the car, as well as inside
Teaching your family to be safe inside the car is only a small part of road safety – after all, they have to leave the car at some point. Ensure they always exit the car on the curb side of the road, and know to wait there until you’re with them. Teach them never to cross between parked cars – there is no way to see oncoming traffic so they could be in for a nasty surprise. Most importantly, it’s crucial that they know never to play around cars. Whether it’s in a parking lot or by a road, awareness is crucial, and sensibleness is key.
Teaching your family to be safe on the road is an essential life lesson and one which they will take with them into adulthood, so it’s best to start them young and lead by example.