12 July 2015

10 simple tips to make car travel with kids safer

There are a few really simple ways how to make car travel with kids safer. I regularly see people make mistakes in a variety of 'kids in cars' situations and wanted to give a few really easy tips. If you drive, and you have kids in your car it is worth going that extra mile and thinking of all the possibilities. You never know what might happen.

Now, I am not claiming to be a car security expert of any sort, or a qualified car seat fitter, but I am a seriously risk-averse mummy who likes to read statistics and technical papers. Some of these tips I am giving might seem pretty obvious, based on my experience (albeit anecdotal) are frightfully common. So please read on, feel free to disagree but if you do disagree, I would suggest you do some research of your own (which would hopefully point you to what I am saying). 



 

1. Get a rear facing car seat for kids under four

Kids should travel in a rear facing car seat until they are four. UK law currently says that kids up until 15 months old (height-based seats) / 9 kg weight (weigh-based seats) should be in rear facing car seats, but that is not enough. Kids heads are heavy compared to their body weight. Their necks can't support them very well in the case of a sudden forceful movement, such as a frontal collision. Their body is attached to the seat but the head lunges forward. Serious injury, or even death may follow as the vertebrae in the neck comes under huge force.

Now, I can tell someone there is thinking 'Oh well, but you could be rear-ended too, so a rear-facing car seat wouldn't help you there would it?'. Well, fair point, but unfortunately it's not that simple. The forces expelled in a full-on frontal collision are much stronger than being rear-ended. Think of your car coming to a sudden stop at 50 miles per hour. Now think your car being rear-ended. Chances are it gets pushed forward (less forceful impact), and you may already be driving it anyway, meaning even less force being directed towards your neck. It is likely to happen in an urban setting at lower speeds. What you want is to protect for the most serious situation, likely to cause significant injury which is a full frontal collision. Additionally, frontal collision is more common than being rear ended.

This video shows both forward facing and rear facing car seat in action, highly recommend watching it. And Car Seats for the Littlest tells a bit more about children's necks.  

2. Position the child car seat in the middle of your vehicle

The safest seat in a car is the middle back seat. Furthest away from any potential impact. It is not always possible to fit a car seat in the middle seat though, for example ours was too big for the middle seat. The second safest seat is the back seat on passenger side, third safest the back seat driver side, fourth safest the front passenger seat. Fifth safest the driver - think frontal collisions and impact from cars driving on the other side of the road (the drivers side).

3. When fitting a car seat disable the air bags

Car seats and air bags do not go together, if you have an air bag for the seat where the child car seat goes, disable it. And for the love of God, if you choose to put your child in the front passenger side (2nd most dangerous seat in the car), at least disable the air bag. An airbag and a baby / child car seat do not go together. Feel free to Youtube other crash test dummy videos to see what happens with kids and airbags, not pretty.


4. Winter time - remove thick puffy coats

This is such a simple one, but during the winter time or if for any reason your kids are wearing something puffy or thick remove it. They can easily slip from the harness and that can be very dangerous if there is a crash.  




5. Ensure you have the right car seat for the age/size of the child

The safest type of a car seat is a rear-facing baby car seat, like the ones you take your child home from the hospital with (Group 0 / 0+). It is well worth investing in a Group 0+ seat as your child can sit in it for longer and safer. Our little girl fit in hers until she was nearly 15 months old - as long as the top of their head is not peeking above the seat back and they can fit into the harness it is safe to use, even if the legs don't fit in anymore. 

After Group 0/0+ you will need a new car seat. Like already mentioned a rear facing car seat is best until four years. Until about four years old kids should be in a car seat that has a harness, not a booster seat. This is because in an accident the belt would be in an incorrect position for a small child, most likely damaging their neck. After four they can start using proper booster seats, but booster cushions are best left until they are a bit older. Good site to check different types of car seats is Child Car Seats by RoSPA
AutoSafe Height Adjuster is another great product to increase the safety of kids in cars if you find that the seat belt they are wearing is cutting into their neck rather than sitting on their shoulder as it should be. Potentially worth buying this if your child rides in taxis a lot.

6. Ensure your tyres are safe

A pretty basic issue is of course tyre safety. Maintaining your car is pretty important to avoid getting into an accident to begin with! 

For tyres the most important things are tread, wear, pressure and overall appearance. New tyres have a 7mm tread to ensure a good grip on the road. Tread less than 1.6mm is illegal, but safety is compromised already at 3mm tread depth. The wear of the tyres should be inspected at regular intervals for damage and wear, and gadgets such as Tyre Wear Indicator can help. Pressure should be correct, not over or under inflated, so monitor and fill up tyre pressure before long journeys in particular. Any odd appearances on the tyres like bulges or cracks... DON'T IGNORE. Pop in by a reliable tyre specialist. Point S car tyre dealers for example have depots all over UK and you can book an appointment with them without any prior payment on Point S website. They also offer free summer tyre checks this summer!

7. Child lock on doors

Self explanatory - those little monkeys try to touch everything!


8. Place everything in the boot or secure it

Never anything unsecured on the back seat, or in front of the rear window - it is just a mini missile waiting to happen. Bags on the floor, pets in pet harnesses, and everything else strapped in or in the boot. 






9. Wear seat belts, properly

Sadly I see this often on the roads - kids in cars without seat belts. Really there is no excuse! By properly this means in the right child car seat, and the strap running from shoulder across the body, not cutting in to the neck. Otherwise serious injury can occur.

By the way, I remember a time from my childhood when you used to not wear seatbelts on the back seat. I even remember cars that didn't have any seatbelts at the back. Very bad - sure fire way of killing both the back seat passenger and the person on the front seat as someone slams in the back of them.   

If you have a Houdini for a tot, who escapes their car seat you can get anti escape systems designed for kids car seats, you can find them from Halfords for example.   

10. Don't ignore any strange sounds or indicators

Another basic car safety tip is of course to make sure your car is maintained and if it acts in any way strangely (sounds, indicators, anything) get it checked out immediately. With our old car there was an occasion we had just set off on a long trip and as we did the turn to M25 our car suddenly had this beep and a strange indicator light we had no idea what it was. We went round the roundabout and straight to the garage, and learned that the car could have just stopped any moment - glad we decided to abandon the journey on the motorway right away!

Oh yes, and while I would have loved to include a "tip" such as don't drive like a buffoon (of which there are sadly too many on the roads nowadays) accidents aren't always your fault. So it is good to try to secure yourself against bad driving by others!

Any tips you have for safer car journeys with kids?


 

36 comments:

  1. Meillä on naama menosuuntaan istuin (Cybex Juno 2-fix), mutta siinä on sellainen palkki joka ottaisi etutörmäyksessä vastaan... Autoliitto on antanut tälle erinomaiset pisteet, joten yritän luottaa siihen vaikka välillä mietinkin että eikö ois vielä parempi että olis palkki plus selkä menosuuntaan... mutta vinkkinä siis että nuo palkilliset ovat vaihtoehtona jos lapsi voi vaikka huonosti kun on selkä menosuuntaan... jopa raivopää O tykkää siitä palkistaan eli ei se edes ole epämukava siinä edessä.

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    1. Meillä on kans tuo Cybexin Juno 2-fix. Saannut erinomaiset arvostelut törmäystesteissä. Meillä istuimen vaatimuksena oli että sen voi heittämällä siirtää autosta toiseen ja kulkee kätevästi lentomatkoilla mukana. Poikakin tykkää istuimestaan tosi paljon ja istuu siinä mukavasti.

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    2. Vastaan nain nyt molemmille yhteisesti :)

      Ma en mitaan maininnut noista palkki-istuimista silla kasittaakseni ne ovat sen verran uusia ettei kovin kattavia tutkimustuloksia niista ole. Ihan maallikkona en kylla ymmarra miksi palkki suojaisi niskaa tormaysvoimilta yhtaan sen paremmin kuin samanlainen naama menosuuntaan 5-pistevyo istuin - samaan suuntaahan siita tormaystilanteessa jatketaan. Ma jostain myos muistan lukeneeni etta palkki-istuimesta voi lapsi helpommin tippua jos auto kierahtaa.

      Mut kauheasti tietoa noista palkki-istuimista en ole nahnyt. Itse tykkasin tosta meidan ERF istuimesta tosi paljon (beSafe merkkinen).

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    3. Erona on, että viispistevyössä olkapäät on tiiviisti kiinni penkissä ja niska retkehtaa ja katkiaa törmäyksessä, palkillisessa sekä olkapäät että pää jatkavat matkaa.

      Kannatan toki itsekin eniten selkä menosuuntaan -penkkiä, mutta emme löytäneet markkinoilta sopivaa käyttöömme ja vaatimuksiimme liikuteltavuudestaan. Vyölliset penkit vaativat myös sen, että toppapuku ja untuvatakki pitäisi poistaa lapselta ennen vyöttämistä, muuten vyöt voi jäädä liian löysälle ja valahtaa pois olkapäiltä törmäystilanteessa. Väärin vyötetty lapsi ei ole oikein suojattu, mutta käytännössä lapsen riisuminen on todella hankalaa talvikeleillä. Palkin kanssa lapsen kiinnittämisessä penkkiin ei voi tulla virhettä. Penkistä voinee tippua auton kieriessä jos reisiluut katkasee, mutta väärin vyötetty lapsikin voi pudota.

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    4. Joo, selkä menosuuntaan olis tosiaan kaikista paras vaihtoehto, mutta tosiaan se palkki tulee vastaan törmäyksessä kun niska ja hartiat jatkaa matkaa, pää osuu palkkiin myös, kuten pikkutyypin nukahtaessakin tapahtuu... 5-pistevöissä vaan niska retkahtaa.. mut tuo Juno on saanut lisäpisteitä sivutörmäystesteistä kun siinä on ne isot tuet joka suuntaan.. mutta nyt kun pitäis hankkia kakkosistuin isovanhempien autoon niin ehkä pitäis silti etsiä parasta selkä menosuuntaan mallia... hmm!!

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    5. Juno painaa 6,5 kiloa ja mahtuu suureen kassiin ja voi näin ollen kuljettaa selkäreppuna. Niinpä oon kuljettanut sitä mukana linja-autoreissuillakin. Onhan se hyvä turvata lapsi linja-autossakin, eipähän tartte noukkia pientä lattialta reippaamman porojarrutuksen jäljiltä. Ja meillä onneksi lapsi tykkää istua siinä, se on osa matkantekoa.

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    6. Natsnakk, kiitoksia selityksestä, selventää tosiaan sitä asiaa kun miettii miten se teoreettisesti sit menee. Kaikissahan näissä on omat hyvät ja huonot puolensa, eikä mikään tietenkään kaikissa tilanteissa tai väärin käytettynä suojaa onnettomuustilanteessa... K'ätevää muuten että sitä Junoa voi ottaa linja-autoon! Yllätyin kyllä sen painosta, meidän taitaa painaa ihan hervottomasti, mut sitä ei kyl liikutellakaan autosta toiseen...

      Eveliina, meillä se kakkosistuin (Suomen puolen) isovanhempien autossa on naama menosuuntaan istuin... Lohduttaudun sillä että mehän ei käytetä sitä kuin muutaman kerran vuodessa, joskin useamman sadan kilometrin matkoilla, mut tietty tässäkin tapauksessa oisin mielummin hommannut selkä menosuuntaan istuimen. Ehkä sit tollainen palkki-istuin ois ollut parempi tässä tapauksessa.

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  2. I don't drive so this list is great for me to remember when getting lifts!

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    1. Glad if it was helpful! There are quite a few little things you can do to improve safety, even if you don't drive often.

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  3. Some great tips here. Definitely a lot to consider. I get my new car next week so I know I will be taking some of your advice with me :) #Brilliantblogposts

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    1. Brilliant, glad that this has been helpful. And good luck with your new car, it is always exciting to get a new car and take it for the first spin around :)

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  4. Such an important topic to talk about. I didn't know about the puffy coat rule until recently when my sister told me. Here in NJ kids are required to be in a booster until they are 8 or 80 pounds, whichever is first. I think it's an excellent law. #BrilliantBlogPosts

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    1. I didn't know about the puffy coat rule either until quite recently. I actually read it in another blog post as well - so obviously these type of posts do reach people! I remember as a kid never having any kind of booster seats, always just had seatbelts and that was it (and not even seatbelts always...).

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  5. What a helpful post. There's so much here I hadn't thought about. All these things would massively reduce the risk of incident or injury in an accident I'm sure

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    1. Glad if it was helpful :) I think these are just such important things to remember - likelihood is of course that you will never be in an accident, but if you were, I bet you wish you would have done everything you could to make it safer for your kids!

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  6. What a good list. So many things you rarely take time to think about. It has also reminded me that I really need to get my tyres checked out! #PoCoLo.x

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    1. Yeah, lots of little things, and sometimes it is difficult to know and remember what to look out for. Tyres are really important too - we have a fairly new car so ours are still fine, but I suppose it is good to check them regularly just in case.

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  7. A very informative post, thanks. I am completely with you on tyres and the puffy coat. We thought about it but chose not to put our daughter in the middle. We were told if you wanted to put them on a side instead of the middle it would be behind the front passenger side, as a lot of side on collisions tend to happen from the drivers side #PoCoLo

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    1. Yeah that's right, side collisions happen mostly on driver side so the seat behind the passenger is safer than the seat behind the driver. We wanted to put our daughter in the middle, but the car seat fitter said it was possible, but she was more comfortable if it was in the side as it didn't fit perfectly in our middle seat. A bit annoying but I guess it happens!

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  8. I always always remove my son's extra layers now after seeing a video about how jackets makes the strap more lose.

    And we follow almost everything here except the rear facing as my son is 5 now. Such a lovely post to share to other parents. Thanks for sharing.

    #pocolo

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    1. After kids are about four their necks are definitely strong enough so after that age rear facing doesn't matter anymore. I remove the extra layers too, and I can imagine that it makes for a much more comfortable ride for my little one as well as she won't be too hot. And thanks, I do hope this post was helpful to some people :)

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  9. Oooh lots there that I didn't know. Although you have totally terrified me with all this talk of accidents! #pocolo

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    1. Ha ha, I know. I am one of those people that over-prepares for every eventuality, however incredibly unlikely that might be :D

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  10. Sound advice especially as it's coming up to summer road trip time. The only thing I'd add is factor in regulator breaks for the driver and passengers if you are travelling any distance. When you have a long way to go it can be tempting to push on but everyone needs to stretch their legs and get a break #thelist

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    1. That's a really good tip! It can be quite tempting to just keep driving on, and just grab a coffee, especially if you are one of these people that don't like being passengers.

      We have the added hassle that I don't actually have a drivers license so it is poor hubby who is always behind the wheel, so we always try to grab quite a few breaks throughout long journeys.

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  11. There's actually a few things I didn't know about. Our twins are three and are in forward facing car seats. We wouldn't be able to put a car seat in the middle one as we have two car seats, so they are both on the door ends. Really informative post, thank you. Thanks for linking up to the #BinkyLinky

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    1. Glad that there were some new things for you :) Yeah I guess that's the trouble if you have more than one child in a car seat or a booster seat - you just can't have them in the middle as it wouldn't fit. Or then you need to buy one massive car :D (like my friends did when they had three kids under the age of four...).

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  12. So important car safety really great advice.Thanks for linking to the Binkylinky

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  13. so many useful points, i am planning on getting my son a new car seat as he started to outgrow his 0 one x #binkylinky

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    1. I'd obviously recommend you get an ERF seat if you can just fit one in your car :) Good luck with shopping - there are lots of good makers nowadays.

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  14. Fab post. I really wanted an ERF seat but we just couldn't afford it, its a shame that such a price can be put on a child's safety. Luckily he was quite small and we managed to keep his infant seat until he was 18 months. Some other great points, I'm doing my driving test soon so should hopefully be out on the road by myself soon!

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    1. It is. You can get some fairly low priced ERF seats - Joie does one for example at £150. It didn't fit our car so we ended up buying another brand at over twice the price as I remember... They can be expensive, that is true. Good luck with your driving test!

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  15. Nice article. I'm going to be father so this is very important to me.
    Thank you for sharing!

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    1. All the best in becoming a dad :) Glad this was helpful!

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  16. If you drive, and you have kids in your car it is worth going that extra mile and thinking of all the possibilities.http://www.stockholmfreetour.com

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