As a parent, your top priority is the safety and well-being of your children. This is perhaps particularly applicable in a moving motor vehicle. Practice makes perfect, but too often also leads to complacency. Many parents put on makeup, text, talk on cell phones, adjust radios or MP3 players, eat, and undertake other distracting activities behind the wheel. This can in turn be blamed in great part on the multitasking culture in which we live. Any person who is not doing six things at once is considered to be less productive and therefore less valuable to themselves and society than a person who can manage children, conduct a business conversation, plan out the weekly grocer’s visit, and compose the next bestselling novel all at the same time.
Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that divided focus yields not only fewer results on all fronts, but also leads to greater anxiety, tension, and negative feelings about one’s job and life in general. Behind the wheel, multitasking behaviour, no matter how well intentioned, is especially risky. This creates an unsafe environment for kids, drivers, and innocent bystanders alike, exacting a harrowing toll on drivers, passengers, insurance companies, and healthcare providers worldwide every year to the tune of $151 billion (USD). Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can keep your children safe and arrive safely at your destination!
Common Best Practices for Driving
It’s been illegal to drive whilst on the phone since December 2003. Despite this, plenty of people flout the rules – an incredible dangerous choice. Especially since distracted driving is cited as the third largest cause of car accidents in the UK. Texting and cell phone usage are attributed to as many as half of these kinds of accidents.
Because of these chilling statistics, think of your next family vehicle excursion as an opportunity to teach your kids safe driving practices early. If you have bad habits such as texting, eating, drinking, smoking, or conducting personal grooming while in the car, do not do these when children are present. While you should not do these at all because of the increased distraction and hence risk of an accident, doing these things when your kids are watching gives them a subconscious signal that such behaviours are acceptable. This perpetuates the problem.
We all know our hands should be positioned at ten o’clock and two o’clock on the steering wheel. This affords you optimum control of the vehicle. If you’re holding a phone, or sandwich, or anything that involves your hands, you’re not in full control.
Many people do not like safety restraints and refuse to wear them, even in places where such use is mandatory. This includes the UK. The rationale many of these people fall back on is something like ‘It’ll never happen to me!’ What these people forget is that luck is very much a factor in this happy outcome. Overcoming this dislike of restraints and similar safety devices is important for both drivers and passengers. It takes an extra three seconds per person on average and saves countless lives all over the world every year. Ensuring your kids wear a seatbelt from a young age – and leading my example – will lay the foundations for safe driving as they grow older.
Smoking is not commonly thought of amongst drivers as a source of distraction, but it is! Groping for one’s packet and lighter, getting the cigarette from the pack into one’s mouth, and lighting up all take a crucial fraction of one’s attention off the road for as few as three or as many as ten seconds, increasing one’s risk of an accident by up to fivefold or more. In addition, any smoker can tell about at least one time they bobbled a cigarette and wound up with a smouldering coal resting in their lap. A distraction par excellence! Perhaps worst of all, even with the windows rolled down, the toxic fumes and vapours in cigarette smoke remain in the upholstery long after the cigarette is extinguished. This exposes children to long-term harm such as lung problems, ear infections, and other illnesses. Taken as a whole, smoking while driving is one of the most unsafe behaviours possible in a moving a vehicle.
Finally, the children themselves may become a distraction. Children are generally not good at sitting still for hours on end; it’s simply contrary to their nature. Most children prefer to be active, moving, running, playing, and so on. Even silly driving games intended to distract children from how long they have been sitting in one spot and breaking into a chorus of “Are we there yet?” only last so long. This can often lead to squabbles or name calling contests, which produce even more distraction for the driver. Using handheld electronic games, portable DVD players, or magnetic board games that take a long time to resolve and which you know your kids can play with minimal odds of an argument breaking out are a good way to counter these risks.
Child Safety Products for the Road
Safety belts and airbags are designed and intended for grown adults. Depending on such devices by themselves to keep children safe can actually lead to the very injuries parents try to avoid. For this reason a number of well-known manufacturers have taken on the issue of child safety, using the best materials and the latest advances in engineering to help minimize child distractions and keep you and your kids as safe as possible on the road. Here are some examples of products you will want in your vehicle any time your children are with you!
1) Vehicle safety shades
Direct sunlight is good for human beings. It aids in the synthesis of vitamins A and D, both essential nutrients that help keep eyes, teeth, bones, and our immune systems healthy. Like anything else, too much of a good thing isn’t good, however. Children with fair complexions are far more susceptible to sunburns, skin cancers later in life, and eye strain or damage from intense, direct sunlight. For this reason, vehicle safety shades are an invaluable addition to your road trip kit. Not only do this shades keep your kids out of direct sunlight, limiting their exposure, but they are also designed to attach quickly and easily to the window with powerful suction cups, helping to reduce the hazard of choking on small pieces. These are manufactured by companies such as PlaySkool, White Hot, and Clippasafe, all of whom have excellent reputations in child safety circles.
2) Organization Solutions
Responding to a child’s appeal for a snack:
Take one hand off the wheel, feel around in the foot-well for the bag, reach in, fish around for the bag with the biscuits in it…no, those are baby wipes, try again…find the bag, open it one-handed, prise out a biscuit, pass it back. Child drops it, start all over.
If this sounds unsafe, that’s because it is! While searching for the bag, locating the biscuits, producing one, and handing it to your kid, your attention is more on locating the snack and keeping your child happy than getting everyone safely to their destination. A back-of-seat organizer can help resolve this problem. By putting everything you need in one place beforehand, you can quickly and easily reach back and locate the items you need without breaking stride. This takes less time and attention from the road and gets your child what they want more quickly, with less hassle. These are manufactured by Graco, Lindam, Fisher-Price, and other children’s accessory companies.
3) Car Seats
The UK requires children to use a car seat until they turn 12 or reach 135cm (4 feet 4 inches) tall. This is to solve the problem mentioned above concerning children using restraining and safety devices intended for adults. These car seats may come as part of a pram system in which the wheels and outer frame are simply removed and stowed for the trip or as a stand-alone accessory. Either way, these seats are designed to both give children a better view of what’s going on outside the car and allow adult-scaled safety equipment to function properly, ensuring your child is as safe as he or she can be from start to finish.
While safety devices and accessories can make a long trip easier and safer, the greatest child safety device in your vehicle is not built into it, but piloting it. Your knowledge, skill, experience, and judgment count for more in ensuring a safe trip than any number of safety devices. Driving appropriately for the weather, keeping your attention focused on the task at hand, and exercising sound decision-making at every turn all greatly reduce your odds of being involved in a car accident.
Of course, there is more to a child-safe trip than simply your own driving and habits. Many drivers, particularly those without kids, do not have the same concerns about safe driving as you do. Tired, intoxicated, or distracted drivers can all do something completely unexpected at any given time, and these unexpected or unsafe manoeuvres too often result in crashes that could be easily avoided if they were giving the same care and attention to their task as you are.
These are the situations in which safety devices can make the difference between a scary, annoying, inconvenient mishap and severe injury or even death. Before you start out on your next trip, across town, across country, or across the continent, make sure you have proper safety devices installed in your vehicle for your children’s use. Using these devices will make the trip smoother, happier, and safer, allowing you to worry less about the safety of your family and more about planning what you and your family will do on your trip!
This article was supplied by Joe Shervell, a keen blogger of all things motoring and childcare. (It’s a rare opportunity to cover both at the same time). He writes for www.design911.com, UK-based sellers of Porsche parts, spares and accessories ’.