The Christmas holidays are just around the corner and families are getting revved up for many adventures. Camping trips, road trips to visit family and friends, drives to the beach and ridiculous numbers of shopping ventures. The holiday season is a hive of activity, particularly on our roads.
So we cannot stress enough the importance of driving safely with children. From infants to young adults, whether a road trip or just the school run, your children’s safety is the utmost priority when behind the wheel.
Distractions alter how we drive and ultimately this impacts our driving ability. Whilst children can be distracting enough, there are many other factors to consider such as road conditions, phone use, road rules, other road users, music and even vehicle safety.
So here are a few handy tips to help you keep your precious cargo safe.
Safety Checks Before Driving with Kids
Check your overall car safety. Not all cars are created equally when it comes to safety. If you’re in the market for a new vehicle you can check its Australiasian New Car Assessment Program ANCAP safety rating which provides independent information based on crash tests. Vehicles are rated between 1 and 5 stars over a range of common crash scenarios.
If you have or are in the market for a used car, you can check your safety rating or make comparisons between models via how safe is your car?
Stay tuned, and check your safety features
Particularly before going on a road trip or highway/freeway drive, make sure you’ve kept up with your regular services and have addressed any repair or replacement needs.
- Chipped windscreens are considered by most an annoyance, but they are a real safety hazard that can worsen very quickly, and compromise your windscreens ability to keep you safe in the event of an accident. Despite how minor, get your windscreen repaired asap.
- When driving with children, check their car seats are secured and installed correctly, and that their seat belts aren’t too loose
- Ensure the seatbelts are working correctly and engage with any sudden movements
- Check your tyre pressure and tread to ensure you’ve got a solid grip on the road
- Make sure your headlights, fog lights, reverse lights, brake lights, indicators and hazards are all in good working order.
- Test your windscreen wipers and replace the blades if not working efficiently
- Activate car safety locks on doors and windows to keep little hands from exploring dangerous and distracting feats.
Scary Statistics on Distracted Driving
Shocking figures have emerged from a $5 million Australian Naturalistic Driving Study (ANDS) as described in an SMH article ‘Candid Camera what drivers are really doing behind the wheel.’ The naturalistic research involved 379 NSW and Victorian Drivers who had cameras and sensors placed in the cockpit of 346 cars. Over 1.95 million kilometres and 194,961 trips were recorded to observe the driving habits of men and women of all ages. The results are alarming.
- Australian drivers are distracted for 45% of their time behind the wheel
- Only 5% of drivers concentrated solely on the road
- A driver is distracted every 96 seconds
Considering driver distraction causes approx 16% of serious crashes this is a worry. So what are we doing while we should be concentrating on the road?
- Texting or talking on the phone
- Eating or drinking
- Reaching for an object
- Tending to personal hygiene
- Adjusting seat belts
- Pressing buttons on the centre stack
- Chatting to passengers or pets
Parents with young children are also more likely to be distracted on the road. Most of us don’t realise how BUSY we are while we’re driving.
According to budget direct car accident statistics of the 4,874 people killed between 2014 and 2017 on our roads, 238 of those were children aged 0-16 years.
Tips to avoid driver distraction
Children, food and phones are the number one culprits in dangerous driver distraction. The trick to maintaining your focus on the road with every trip is to plan well in advance, and prepare.
“70% of Queenslanders surveyed admitted to using a mobile phone illegally in the car.” 2018 Driver Behaviour and Attitudes Study – DTMR
Leave the Phone alone!
Set your phone then leave it alone! RACQ has launched a distracted driver campaign with the Motor Accident Insurance Commission (MAIC) encouraging people to set their phone to ‘Do Not Disturb’ while driving.
If you MUST keep your phone on to take a call, make sure you have activated BlueTooth and / or hands-free.
Plan your distance driving
Plan your journey meticulously. Particularly when driving with kids, you’ll need to frequently rest, eat, use the bathroom and stretch your legs. Plan them into the trip so your kids know how long until the next stop. Also check for any traffic problems that might stall your journey, road works, accidents or congested traffic and choose the best route.
Avoid eating and drinking in the car
Eat and drink before your journey – or make planned pit stops along the way. Not only does eating and drinking take our eyes off the road and hands off the wheel, but it’s also messy, smelly business for your vehicle.
Choose your music/radio station wisely
Set up your music or desired radio station before you start driving. Studies show that listening to certain styles of music or radio talk shows can help improve concentration. But avoid fiddling with the knobs and stations once you’re in motion.
Give your kids plenty to do in the car
Bored kids and long drives are a recipe for driver distraction. Occupy your children with as many activities as you can. iPad, tablet, movies, toys, colouring books, and card games. Remember to involve them in the journey and let them know how far, or how long it is until the next stop and adventure that awaits them.
Common kid behaviours that can present a real hazard include:
- Trying to open the door or window
- Trying to remove their seatbelt
- Shouting and arguing with each other
- Sticking their head, arms or legs out of a window
- Throwing something – either within the car or out the window
When you’re embarking on a long journey, talk to your kids about these behaviours and why they are so dangerous. It’s important to explain the consequences of distracting the driver and how it can result in a bad accident. If need be, take away one of their privileges if they start misbehaving, so they soon learn that you’re serious.
Don’t give your kids attention when driving
Avoid giving your children’s attention that distracts you from the road. This can be particularly gut-wrenching if you have a baby that is not enjoying the journey. Do you best to time your journey’s prior to their sleep time, or when they’re settled and content after feeding.
Practice safe pet travel
If your beloved family pet is joining you in the fun, be aware that an animal moving around in the car can be a dangerous distraction for the driver. Animals can be easily injured or cause injury to another occupant in the vehicle in the event of an accident if they’re unrestrained, or not restrained properly. Invest in a travel basket or pet harness and ensure they’re properly fitted and installed. Make sure you’re prepared with cleaning items just in case there are any accidents!
Rest well before a holiday or road trip
Look after yourself! While it can be hectic packing and preparing for a trip, you need to make sure you have a good night’s sleep and plenty of rest stops on the road. Driver fatigue is one of the leading killers on our roads. If you’re feeling too tired to make it to your planned destination – change your plans!
Look out for others on the road
Be mindful of other road users. Our roads can be super busy over the holidays, and it’s easy to get frustrated if you’re stuck behind slow vehicles, or held up by roadworks. Try and keep in mind everyone is in the same boat! Leave the stresses of the daily grind behind and be courteous of other road users. Never speed, never drink and drive and make sure your behaviour on the road is safe and predictable. Set an example for the little people in the back seat that watch and absorb EVERYTHING you do. Make sure you all get to your fun holiday destination, safely – being on time isn’t the priority.
Safe Driving Conclusion
Whenever you get behind the wheel, please bear in mind of all the risks factors involved. Whenever your kids are in the car it’s even more important to practice safe driving every time you turn the key because as we all know, driving isn’t about the destination but rather about the journey, right?
If you’d like to know more about how to improve your journey with windscreen replacements or product services, contact Novus for more information. We’re all about getting you back on the road, and to your destination safely and in good time.