Did you know that a Safe Kids Worldwide poll found that a new mom is nearly three times more likely than any other driver to be involved in a car accident? She’s shouldering new responsibilities and a lot more gear, all while enduring interrupted sleep and the sheer exhaustion of those early days. There’s mental, physical, and emotional overload, which is a recipe for danger—especially with new, precious cargo on board.
Here are a few tips that will help new parents keep everyone safe on the road.
1. Take the appropriate safety precautions
Well before the baby arrives, get your car seat fitted and checked. Most local fire departments will do this for you. Make sure the straps are pulled tight so only one finger’s width can fit between the strap and their body. If it’s cold, be sure to put a blanket or coat over the car seat. Bulky coats mean that the car seat straps may not fit properly and restrain the child as they should in the event of an accident.
2. Plan ahead
Be strategic with your outings and try to fit them into your baby’s schedule. Your journey will probably take a lot longer than it used to, but if you can drive when your baby would normally sleep, then it will be an easier trip. To minimize the stress of an upset baby in the car, make sure you feed the baby and change its diaper first.
If you’re on a long journey, allow plenty of time for additional comfort breaks. Bear in mind that experts recommend that babies younger than four weeks old should not spend more than 30 minutes in a car seat at a stretch or more than two hours in a car seat for babies of all ages.
3. Be prepared
That diaper bag is huge for a reason. Anything can happen with a baby in tow, and it’s better to be prepared than not. A pacifier can be soothing not only to the child but also to the driver. Sun shades for car windows are useful to protect against the heat and bright lights.
You should talk to your doctor if your child suffers from travel sickness, but it’s a good idea to carry first-aid essentials in the car.
Don’t forget about yourself! Bring some snacks and drinks in case you get stuck in traffic.
4. Be careful
It’s tempting to bring a bottle for a baby or snacks for toddlers, but experts advise against giving children snacks on the road. That’s because if the child chokes, you will be unable to deal with it quickly. Also, you’re more likely to be distracted while driving if you are offering snacks to a child. It’s better to pull over to attend to the child.
5. Be alert
Most new parents are sleep-deprived, and this can affect their alertness and ability to react. New parents sometimes operate in a fog of autopilot, and tragically this sometimes ends with a child being left in the car alone.
Take another adult in the car with you if possible, or leave something important next to the child. (Your phone is an excellent choice as then you won’t be tempted to talk or text while driving either.)
6. Make sure your kids don’t get bored
Needless to say, a content child makes for a more pleasant car trip. Attach a toy to the car seat or play music and nursery rhymes in the car to keep kids distracted and happy.
We wish you the safest and easiest travels with your baby in the car. If you’re ever involved in an accident that involves your children or a distracted or drowsy driver, our experienced personal injury lawyers in Richmond, Virginia, and Charlotte, North Carolina, are on call to help you.