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Our Favourite Things to Remember When Driving with Children

If you've ever been in a car with children, you'll know that it's a world apart from driving on your own. Sarah Rowley from Nanny Drive iQ offers some advice on what to think about before getting behind the wheel

 

When you learn to drive it's usually just you and the instructor or a parent in the car, distractions are kept to a minimum and no one is vying for your attention.

Fast forward a few years, or more in some cases, and you're an old hand at driving. You know the rules of the road, you're confident and competent. BUT, add children into the mix and we all need to retrain our brains to cope with an added element of distraction. The amount and size of the distraction will vary from day to day but learning to drive with the constant singing, question asking and moving objects can be an art form.

Driving statistics

Whether you drive or entrust this responsibility to another family member, nanny or child-carer the harsh facts remain the same:

  • Every year in the UK around 18,000 under 15's are involved in road crashes. Last year just over 2,200 were killed or seriously injured
  • 95% of all crashes are contributed to by human factors rather than how technically well a car is driven. So it is things like distraction, mood, anxiety, fatigue, a lack of planning or concentration that put a usually competent and careful driver, and their passengers, in danger
  • Recent research has highlighted that children are 12 times more likely to be a distraction to drivers than using a mobile phone at the wheel, and we all know how lethal that can be
  • Furthermore, it is estimated that more than 70% of us don't fit a car seat correctly.

Childcarers re-learning to drive

After her own nanny was involved in a collision, Sarah Rowley realised there was a need for nannies, and anyone chauffeuring children around, to learn how to drive all over again.

This is where the inspiration for Nanny Drive iQ* came from. We asked Sarah to tell us about some of the things we can do to make driving our children, and other people's children, safer.

"Being fully prepared for a journey and seeking out useful education which will help more than just technical driving ability could make all the difference," says Sarah Rowley, CEO of Nanny Drive iQ.

Nanny Drive iQ

How can we minimise the danger for children in cars?

Always have a backup plan

You can start enhancing the safety of everyone in a car before they even get in it by simple journey planning. Knowing how to get somewhere and having an alternative route is always wise, especially for a long journey or if you are going somewhere you haven't been before. Even consider journeys you do all the time may differ from day to day.

For example: Think of how you feel when the road you are expecting to go down is closed. Suddenly you need to find a new route in your head or enter something into your GPS device very quickly, and whilst driving, to ensure you don't drive miles out of your way to get where you need to go. You therefore are instantly distracted, anxious and more likely to make mistakes.

Dealing with unfolding drama while you are driving is extremely distracting and dangerous. Take a few moments to read the handbook from your car so you'll know what to do if a warning light comes on, or if you break down, or get a flat tyre.

Plan ahead for your journeyTop tip: If you are travelling with another vehicle don't say, "I'll follow you". This is extremely distracting and you might be tempted to take risks while trying to keep up with them.

Plan ahead so you can get there individually. Also think about what happens when you get to your destination - where are you going to park? Do you need money for parking, will there be a safe place to get the children out of the car?

Be a great role model

In their early years, a child absorbs a huge amount of information that may in turn affect their own behaviour. Therefore, it is vital that anyone who drives a child should, actively and effectively inspire them to be safe and respectful road users of the future.

If young passengers are exposed to speeding, lack of consideration for other road users or aggressive driving, research shows that as they become drivers themselves, their driving attitude and style will have been influenced by the actions of those who had driven them whilst growing up.

Top tip: It's not just about driving a car, how you cross a road with children may also have dangerous repercussions. In short, it is never worth taking risks and always important to be alert. For example, avoid using a mobile phone and where possible don't cross roads between parked cars. Find the safest place to cross, ideally a zebra, pelican or puffin crossing, traffic island, footbridge or subway, and only do so when you can clearly see in every direction.

Understanding that every day is different

Each journey is different. Many factors have an influence. You can't control some factors, but you can be really prepared for most of them. Just being aware of a situation often means you can alter your behaviour and in turn make a positive difference.

The changing weather plays a big part, not only because it can change the road, but it changes reaction time and affects your visibility. Whatever the weather, bright sun, fog, rain, ice, snow etc you need to be aware how to adapt so nothing catches you out. Having blankets and warm clothes in the winter, and sunglasses and window shades in the summer, can help keep you on the road.

Top tip: Think about these situations and how they might make a difference to your driving...

  • Are you late or trying to keep up with someone you are following?
  • What's happening with your mood?
    Are you stressed? Anxious? Excited? Emotional?
  • Were you out late last night?
  • Are you feeling really tired?
  • Are the children distracting you?
  • Do you find yourself daydreaming while driving?
  • Is there something loose rolling around in the car?
  • Do you know what the warning light that has just come on means?
  • Is someone tailgating you or driving aggressively and making you feel uncomfortable?
  • Is your young passenger screaming as they have just wet themselves?

Now think about the coping strategies you could use to help in each situation, such as: journey planning, turning your mobile off when driving, ensuring you have backup drinks/food/change of clothes for the children. You might even consider if there are alternatives to driving?

Driven to distraction

A recent study showed that in a 16 minute journey with children, the average driver took their eyes off the road for a staggering 3 minutes and 22 seconds in total!

Distraction plays a huge part in crashes and it's not just about taking your eyes off the road. Your mental concentration is key too. The ability to keep calm and focused is essential to safe driving. Have things lined up to keep your passengers occupied means you can concentrate on the main task in hand - your driving.

Top tip: There is a lot of advice out there on ways to keep your passengers occupied so they don't get bored - everything from music, to games, to in-car DVD players. However, be sure to choose activities that don't distract the driver! iSpy is a classic, but could divert your attention from an unfolding hazard as you search around for something beginning with...!!!

Is everyone sitting comfortably?

Car seats

Understanding the law about car seats, knowing when it is time for a change of seat/restraint and how to fit a car seat properly is essential for the travelling safely with young passengers.

Once the car seat/restraints are on properly, you might also want to consider explaining to your young passengers that driving requires a great deal of concentration and therefore its important that they are always calm and keep the noise level down, so you can keep everyone really safe.

Top tip: Snacks and drinks are often a prerequisite and in constant demand! Consider where you put them in relation to you being able to easily access them. Is the juice container easy to open or likely to spill? Do you have backup if it gets dropped? Remember food and drink can be a choking hazard, so choose your snacks wisely.

The most comprehensive guide to choosing a car seat is produced by Which.co.uk.

Alone / unattended in a car

Never leave a child alone in a vehicle, even if the engine is off and the doors are locked. Children are by nature very curious and some modern cars don't even need a key to start them and turning the handbrake off only requires the touch of a button. Electric windows and seat belts, as with cords from blinds in the home, also represent danger for little hands and heads. Not to mention what could happen if someone manages to start the car, open the door or steal the car!

Leaving a child in a locked car can also lead to heatstroke and in some cases even death. Children's' bodies warm up 3-5 times faster than those of an adult and when you consider it only takes around 10 minutes for the temperature in a car to rise around 20 degrees in the summer, it is never worth the risk.

* You can save money with Nanny Drive iQ

Chose the right car seat fro your child

Nanny Drive iQ was developed by a2om, a global leader in online driver education. It is based on the same principles used to screen all 8,500 car drivers for the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games.

Nanny Drive iQ provides a true insight into a driver's attitude and knowledge via its online assessment. It also goes on to provide thorough and effective remedial e-learning to teach vital skills and coping strategies to ensure someone driving children is fully informed and prepared for just about anything when out on the road.

Nanny Drive iQ is only £49.50 for Tinies families / candidates, when they enter discount code TINIES01P at www.nannydriveiq.com.

 
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