Technological advances are radically improving the safety features of new vehicles. But ultimately, keeping your children safe while you’re driving is still up to you. Here are five things you can do whenever you’re in the car to keep your children safe.
1. Use boosters and child restraints
Use and install child restraints and boosters correctly, every time. The Child Accident Prevention Foundation recommends:
Children under six months are best in a rear-facing restraint.
Once they are too tall for a rear-facing restraint, a forward-facing one should be used, then a booster seat with a lap sash until they are tall enough to sit in an adult seat.
Kids under 12 are safest sitting in the back seat.
Remember, different states in Australia have different requirements for child car seats, so be sure to check which rules apply to you.
If you’re travelling with the family pet, make sure they are restrained too – both for their safety and yours.
2. Model good safety behaviour
Your children learn from you, so put safety first when driving — even when you’re in a hurry. Before you drive off, make sure everyone has their seatbelts done up. Never text while driving and pull over if you are distracted, tired or very stressed.
It’s also good to encourage and reward your children for behaving well in the car.
3. Don’t leave kids unsupervised in a car
Temperatures in parked cars can rise very quickly, especially on hot days where they can reach dangerous levels in no time at all. According to the NRMA, the temperatures can be up to 40°C hotter in a parked car than outside — and leaving the window down makes little difference. So, never leave your children alone in a car, even on cool or overcast days. As well as being potentially lethal, leaving your child alone in a car is also an offence.
4. Keep your kids amused on long drives
Complaining or crying children on a long drive is not only unpleasant, it can also be dangerously distracting. So, before you leave for a long journey, be prepared. For young children, play soft, soothing music or a children’s story on the car’s sound system.
Chat with older children, or even organise a good old-fashioned sing-a-long or game of ‘I Spy’ to pass the time. Make sure kids have a supply of soft toys, books and a drink to help make the trip more enjoyable — and don’t underestimate the power of a tablet loaded with video and games. Don’t forget to stop regularly for stretches, toilet breaks and to refresh yourself for the next stretch of the drive. When you get back into the car, check that restraints and seat belts are on safely and securely before you get back on the road.
5. Make your car child proof
Think about installing child proof locks, especially if you’ve got a restless or very active child who might be tempted to open the door themselves.
Loose items can fly about in a crash, so keep loose items in the glove box, the boot or behind the cargo barrier in station wagons and four-wheel drives. When travelling with an empty booster seat in the car, fasten the seatbelt around it to keep it secure and prevent it from injuring someone. You should also restrain any pets travelling with you.
NSW - Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998
– Section 231
QLD - Queensland Criminal Code Act 1899 (QLD)
– Section 364A
VIC - Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic)
– Section 494
WA - Children and Community Services Act 2004
– Part 4, Division 7, Subdivision 1
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