A vehicle full of kids, a nervous dog and several hundred miles between you and grandma’s house in holiday traffic. What could possibly go wrong? Okay, a lot could go wrong. But it doesn’t have to. Following these tips can help take some of the stress out of your holiday travel and ensure you arrive at your destination happy and safe.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends children sit in the back seat and be buckled up properly. Make sure everyone is using proper seat restraints at all times. For infants (from birth to one year and less than 20 lbs.), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends infant-only or rear-facing convertible seats with harness straps at or below shoulder level. The NHTSA says toddlers (over one year and between 20 to 40 lbs.) should be placed in convertible/forward-facing seats with harness straps at or above shoulders. For young children (4 to 8 years old and more than 40 lbs.), the organization recommends a forward-facing, belt positioning booster seat with the lap belt fitting low and tight across the lap/upper thigh area and the shoulder belt snug across the chest and shoulder. All children age 12 and under should ride in the back seat with the safety belt fastened securely. Generally speaking, children shouldn’t graduate to the standard vehicle belts in the rear seat (or front, where allowed) unless the belts fit properly across the thigh and snugly across the chest. Until they’re big enough for that, use a booster.
Of course, driving safely means staying alert. It’s important to be fresh and alert as well as aware of your surroundings on the road. The National Sleep Foundation and the AAA Foundation recommend adults have 7-9 hours of sleep before driving and for teens to have 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep. Having a passenger remain awake to talk to the driver can also help prevent drowsiness. If you notice signs of fatigue, you should pull over to a rest stop to refresh yourself. Holiday or vacation driving sometimes tempts people to keep going to make a schedule. Think smart. Remember that even a minor accident or roadside chat with a highway patrol officer takes more time than a rest stop. Some of the warning signs indicating you should pull over: lane drifting, hitting road-edge rumble strips, repeated yawning, tailgating and trouble maintaining focus.
Reduce distractions by keeping the kids entertained. Pack toys, books and video games to keep the kids busy during the trip. If you're planning a long drive, be prepared for frequent bathroom and food stops. If the backseat is happy, you’re more likely to feel the same way.
Keep everyone happy by taking steps to prevent motion sickness. If your child gets car sick, speak with your pediatrician about possible medications to bring along on the trip. Certain driving habits can also help prevent motion sickness. To help, try driving at a constant speed (rather than speeding up and slowing down), cracking a window, and providing light snacks along the way to prevent the need for a heavy meal.