As a parent, when you drive your child or preteen you are responsible for ensuring your child is riding as safely as possible. Do you make sure all drivers transporting your children are held to the same standards?
Car crashes are the number one killer of children 1 to 12 years old in the United States. When the stakes are so high it’s important to be cautious about anyone who transports your precious cargo.
But how do you know whether someone has thought through all the steps of carpool safety?
“We know it can be uncomfortable to ask the tough questions you may need to ask to make sure your child or preteen is as safe as possible in every car,” says Pam Bucaro, RN, clinical nurse specialist at Dayton Children’s. “But asking the right questions of anyone who drives your child is key in keeping them safe on the go.”
What can parents do to keep children safe?
Discuss this checklist with all other adults transporting your child and make sure you can answer “yes” to all of these questions as well.
Safe driver checklist for carpools:
- I have a valid driver’s license
- I have auto insurance
- I do not carry weapons in the car
- I will not allow a teenage driver to substitute for me when I am supposed to drive the carpool
- I will not drive if I have had any alcohol or drugs that impair driving
If you share driving with others, check that all drivers involved know about general carpool safety.
Before you load up the neighborhood preteens, set these ground rules for safe carpooling:
- Plan your route so children can enter and exit the car on the curbside.
- At each stop, check that everyone is buckled up before putting the car back in gear.
- When dropping off children, wait until they are safely supervised before driving off.
- Never leave children alone in the car, even for a few minutes.
- Make it a rule that everyone younger than 13 rides in a back seat. This is the safest place for preteens and younger children to sit.
- If a child younger than 13 must sit in a front seat, disable the airbag if the child does not meet the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements.
- Every child must have a safety belt or appropriate car or booster seat. Sharing seat belts is not safe.
- Don’t allow children to wear shoulder belts under their arm or behind their back.
- Treat unused seat belts like any other cord. Remind kids not to play with them.
- If high spirits get out of control, let your riders know you can’t drive safely when you are distracted. Pull the car over until they have calmed down.
- Walk completely around the car looking for kids, toys and pets before entering the car and starting the engine.
“Perhaps the most important safety tip, however, is to trust your instincts – and teach your kids to trust theirs,” says Bucaro. “If you feel uncertain about a driver, find other transportation for your preteen. And let your child know it’s always OK to tell you or another adult if they feel unsafe riding with a particular driver.”
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