It seems like kids are hard-wired to get hungry and more demanding as soon as the car starts. While driving across town or across the country, if you’re not hearing cries of “I’m hungry,” more than likely it’s “I’m bored.”
But in that second it takes to reach to the passenger seat for the pacifier-du jour you could find yourself in the back seat of the car in front of you, with a rear-end accident, possible injuries and potential auto insurance claims.
While it’s tempting to want to placate children immediately, it’s important for drivers to remember that their primary responsibility is to pay attention to the road to make sure everyone gets to their destination safely.
Here are some safety tips to help keep your next trip with small children accident free.
Keep your mind on the road and off the snacks by making sure the kids have what they need before you hit the road.
You may find it helpful to keep a bag packed with snacks, activities or toys in the back seat that your child can reach easily, especially if you’re going on a long trip. Change items out frequently so they don’t get bored with the selection.
If your child is very little there are products on the market that allow you to attach toys and snack cups to the car seat to keep them at hand. However, if food is a choking hazard for your little one at home, don’t give it to them in the car.
Train the Troops
“Training” your children for proper automobile behavior is also key for avoiding highway hassles – and potential auto insurance claims. Making sure they have snacks and books before you hit the road is a start. The second part of the equation is to let them know that if they drop it, it’s gone for good. Period.
Do a final check-in with everyone before you take off to make sure that they have what they need: music, snacks, activities. Then remind your children that once you hit the road, they’re on their own.
Remain focused: cell phones and electronics only complicate the issue even further. Turn handheld devices off or leave them in the trunk to avoid the temptation to answer a call.
If the backseat erupts into chaos, keep yourself calm and your eyes on the road. If you’re unable to diffuse the situation safely or unable to ignore it, pull over at your first opportunity.
If you must pull over, make sure you pull over in a safe place. The side of the freeway is not the place to calm a child and is something law enforcement officers frown upon.
Retrain Your Brain
It is part of the human condition to want to sooth a child in distress, and parents are especially in tune with satisfying kids’ every need. Remind yourself that your job in the car, first and foremost, is to arrive safely at your destination.
Ultimately children respond to adult’s reactions. Once you retrain yourself not to react, your kids will do the same. If you can remain calm and firm, your kids will eventually learn to accept that they are not going to get their way the minute they make a request. They may not be happy when you get where you’re going, but at least they’ll be in one piece.