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8 Safe Driving Tips for Moms and Dads

Distractions coming from the back seat are just one of the challenges parents face while driving with their children. Keep your kids safe on the road by following these tips.

Sponsored by the Alberta Motor Association

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Be Prepared

Does your child calm down when listening to music? Does he need his favourite soother whenever he’s in the car seat? Take a moment to make sure everything is set before you leave. That extra minute of remembering your child’s favourite toy or extra bottle of water will save you from a trip full of complaints and crying. Another tip? Try attaching your child’s toys to their car seat with a tether. That way if they are dropped, they can easily be pulled back up again without Mom and Dad searching for them from the front seat – a potentially dangerous situation.

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Reduce Distractions and Focus on the Road

Perhaps unsurprising to parents, an Australian study has found that children are 12 times more distracting to a driver than talking on a cell phone. Driving with a screaming infant in the back seat may be unpleasant, but making them wait until you pull over is safer than turning around and tending to them while driving. Older kids need to understand that there are rules in the car and parents need to focus on the road instead of catering to their needs. Another easy way for adults to reduce a major distraction? Turn off the phone and leave calls and texts for later.

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Properly Buckle-Up Your Children

Safely buckling up your kids is the best line of defense to properly protect them from danger, but it’s important to keep up on the latest rules and regulations, which can be subject to change. “A lot of incidents regarding children involve car seats that aren’t installed properly or seats that are not right for the child,” says Lewis Smith, Communications/Media Program Coordinator at the Canada Safety Council. Take a moment to get to know the latest facts and if you are still unsure, head to a car seat clinic to verify that everything has been properly installed. Transport Canada’s website has all the information you need. 

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Don’t Drive While Tired

Unfortunately, this piece of advice is easier said that done, as many sleep-deprived parents can attest. But the statistics speak for themselves: Adults with children are more likely to drive while tired than those without. Fatigue is a factor in up to 20 per cent of all fatal motor vehicle collisions and shouldn’t be taken lightly. “There’s less of a stigma but it’s very similar to drunk driving,” says Smith. Ask yourself if you really need to take that trip, no matter how short it is. Putting it off until you are not running on fumes may be the best decision of all.

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Photo: Thinkstock

Follow the Rules of the Road

Parents are some of the worst offenders of traffic violations, especially in areas where there are a lot of children such as school zones. Parents are often in a rush and school zones tend to get congested. Try leaving a little earlier every day to avoid the daily panic. As for the congestion? Try to find another safe spot to drop off the kids and walk with them part of the way. It reduces traffic in front of the school and allows for a bit of fresh air. “You really want to see parents take their time, follow the rules of the road and make sure no one gets hurt,” says Smith. “It’s better to be late than injured.”

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Secure Loose Objects

No one ever plans to get in an accident, but sudden stops or collisions can cause objects to fly around and hurtle towards the back seat. A sudden stop at 50 km/hr means that a bag of groceries will hit a passenger with the same force as if they had been dropped from a two-story building. Try to store any loose objects in the trunk or consider installing netting or a barrier to prevent objects from flying around. Teach kids about the importance of taking whatever they brought in the car back out of the car once they reach their destination and securing it properly while en route.

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Avoid Bulky Clothing in Car Seats

Winter in Canada is often brutally cold and you want your little one to be warm and bundled up. Unfortunately, bulky winter clothing can compress during a car crash, creating a loose harness and an ineffective car seat. Instead have children wear a thinner jacket and lay a blanket over them. Alternatively, put their winter coat on backwards after they’ve been strapped in. You could also try heating up the car before you head out. That way, the car will be toasty warm for both you and your tot.

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Lead by Example

Kids can pick up good habits from an early age, and even though junior may be years away from driving on his own, chances are he’ll follow your lead when he gets behind the wheel. Are you always cutting people off? Talking on the phone? Speeding or running reds? Think about how you would like your own children to drive and set a standard that they can learn from over the next few years. Not only will you be a safer driver for it, you will feel assured to know you are setting a good example for your own children.