If you’re travelling with the kids by car for the coming holidays, you’re probably worried about packing everything in (excluding the kitchen sink), and keeping your children occupied during the drive. But have you thought about proper safety and comfort before you get going?
Here are some tips straight from the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) that I think every parent should read before they go away. Some of the advice might sound “obvious”, but let it act as a reminder. Safe travels!
Before the trip:
- Plan the length of your trip. Be honest about what you and your children can handle in the way of a road trip. While older children might be able to deal with 10 or more hours in the car, younger children can’t. Generally speaking, young children should not be subjected to confinement in a car for more than six hours a day. This is just as much for your sanity as it is for theirs.
- Children are prone to car or motion sickness so be prepared for this. Consult your doctor or pharmacist ahead of time and get the right medication according to age and weight. Most of these will need to be administered prior to departure.
- To avoid frustration, confusion and last minute run-around on departure day, start packing a few days before you leave. Discuss with your children what they want to take with and if they are old enough let them pack their own bags; with some guidance of course.
- Get your car packed and ready the night before if you are planning to leave early in the morning. This includes getting snacks, drinks, a spare set of clothing, first aid kit and other essentials prepared. Toys, books and other key things to keep your child occupied should be stored in the car where it is easy for them to reach while not causing any safety concerns. Make sure the DVD player is charged and the screen set up where it won’t distract the driver – and remember to ensure the screen is securely fastened so that it won’t fall down and cause injury.
- Make sure your home is secured and you have made the necessary arrangements to ensure you can enjoy your holiday with peace of mind.
Good safety guidelines:
- Ensure everyone in the car is safely secured. South African law states that all passengers should wear a seatbelt at all times and the onus is on the driver to ensure it happens.
- A baby should be in an approved and preferably rear-facing child seat.
- Older children (15-25kgs) should be secured in a booster seat with a seatbelt on, preferably in the rear of the vehicle.
- Never place a child seat in the front seat of a vehicle equipped with airbags unless they have been deactivated.
- Small children (less than 20kg) should not sit in the front passenger seat if the vehicle has a front passenger airbag that has not been deactivated.
- Never allow children to stand on seats or sit on other passengers’ laps.
- Ensure doors are locked and activate the child locks on rear doors to avoid children opening them while the vehicle is moving or in unsafe places.
- Make sure your baby is not exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time while in the vehicle –block the sun with a towel or shade screen.
- Never leave your baby, or pets, unattended in a vehicle – temperatures can easily reach over 40 degrees celsius within a very short period of time, and this can cause heat exhaustion and even prove fatal.
- When parking, make sure you have good access to the side of the vehicle that your child’s seat is fitted on.
- The trip home after the holiday has ended is always the least enjoyable part. Ensure not to rush home as this will put you and your family at risk. To ensure your safety all the way home, rather treat the trip home as part of your holiday – so keep your speed down and enjoy the scenery.
- For peace of mind, keep your AA Membership card and AA Emergency Call Centre number at hand 0861 000 234.
- Take regular breaks. Make sure to stop every one and a half to two hours or every 200km to give yourself a break and also give children the opportunity to run around and burn off energy. There are great child-friendly rest stops along all major routes that cater for both yours and your child’s needs.
- A great way to avoid the inevitable question – are we there yet? – is to give children a map, or, even more fun, help them create their own before your leave. You can trace the route together and point out interesting landmarks so that they will have a sense of where they are going.
- Those ‘old school’ games of ‘I Spy’ and ‘20 questions’ are great ways to keep children occupied and entertained on long trips. Use these along with sing-along-songs and CD stories to keep children entertained and create family traditions along the way.
Images via AA