The holiday season is officially among us. And with it comes lots of traveling. This week, we’ll be featuring posts all about making traveling with our kiddos safe and bearable, maybe even fun!
Cars. Most of us have one (sometimes two or three), and if you’re anything like me you spend roughly 50% of your day in it. We all remember buckling in our fresh, squishy newborns and driving 15 mph the entire way home, ignoring the honks and stares of others on our first drive home from the hospital. Most of us have probably been in some sort of accident, whether a fender bender or an all-out “totaled my car and landed in the emergency room” accident. In fact, with children, (and this isn’t a scientific fact -although it may be- just my personal observation, but…) the odds of getting in an accident are probably greater.
A few weeks ago I was driving to meet my family for lunch after church, and my 3 littles were screaming and throwing toys at each other in gleeful, crazy fun fashion in the back seat. I, however, could barely focus on the road in front of me and my ears felt like they were about to explode from the screeches that could shatter glass coming from directly behind me. I literally told my kids, “Y’all HAVE to stop or you are going to make me get in a wreck!” *crunch* No. Lie. It actually happened no more than a minute after I said it. My daughter scornfully (or happily, I’m not sure which) looked at her brothers and said, “See, guys, we REALLY did it!” It may have been a plot, but I digress. The point is, the chances of having some sort of incident happen with our vehicles is rather large. This is something we spend SO much time in and isSO prevalent in our society. Here are a couple of issues to consider when it comes to cars and safety.
Inside the Car
I get it. Carseats aren’t fun, some children hate them to the point of torture, they are expensive, they are confusing. It’s much easier to just say, “Well, my grandparents never rode in a carseat, so we’re fine.” But the truth is, it’s not fine. With the death rates of children involved in accidents and how preventable it is, it shouldn’t be brushed off. The guidelines change constantly because of new testing and new information that is being brought to light. I, for one, am thankful that there are people who continuously pour their effort into studying what is the safest option for my child (because I for sure don’t have the time to conduct crash tests in my driveway to figure out what kind of carseat I should use!) But sometimes this information is alarming and also annoying. I mean, rearface until at least the age of 2? Preferably as long as possible (like 4?) really? Yes, really. And there are good reasons. Do not ignore the new guidelines coming out for carseat safety even if the law hasn’t caught up yet.
I say this as a regretful mom, not as the mom who did it the correct way. I switched my first child forward facing at 11 months and even below the 20lb mark because he was “close”. Why did I switch him? Because we were driving around looking at houses every day and he screamed the. entire. time. We literally pulled over in a neighborhood and I switched his carseat. He stopped crying- hallelujah. What I didn’t realize was I had just put him at major risk of internal decapitation and death. They were just “recommendations” right? Also, the type of carseat you use in your vehicle, the adjustment of the straps, etc. all play a huge part in if the carseat will actually be effective in an accident (or if it will actually end up causing more harm than good.) I could probably write an entire article just on carseat safety since it is so important. Luckily, there are licensed child passenger safety technicians (CPST for short) who are trained to tell you what seat to use based on your particular vehicle and on your specific child (size, development, age, etc.) Make an appointment to go see one!
Outside the Car
This is something I am so vigilant about with my children. They are small, very small, and no car would ever be able to see them. They are also fast, very fast, and no car would ever be able to stop. In a parking lot, the only person a car would be able to see is me since my children are shorter than most back windows and out of sight of mirrors. So my children are required to hold hands and stay by my side, not just to prevent them from running off and to make us look like a nice, neat, put together little family of rule followers, but to prevent them from being backed over. Preventing me from having to lose my child and also to prevent an innocent person from having to live with a horrible accident that they had no control over (again, they wouldn’t be able to see my child and probably wouldn’t be able to stop by the time they did, if they did). Children want their independence, but being even one parking space ahead of me puts them in danger.
I also teach them to listen for the sounds of vehicles starting their engines, to watch for lights (brake lights OR backup lights), and to just be vigilant. I still have 3 in carseats. It takes quite a while to load and unload and it is the perfect opportunity for one of them to break free and run off. If you are at the grocery store, park near the cart return or a parking space with a cart in it so you can place your children in the cart immediately after getting them from the car (I still place my 6yo in the cart until we get into the store and then he can walk.) You can trade out the regular crappy cart with the crooked wheel when you get inside for the nice two child buggy from heaven (because shopping without one is, well, you know). Just use whatever is available to get your children through the parking lot safely. You can also buy a magnet to stick on the side of your car for your child to use as her “place marker” to keep her from running off. If your child is disciplined enough to stay in one spot next to the car for however long it takes you to load everyone else in and out then this is perfect. I tell mine to “touch the side of the car” but it is kind of a 50/50 shot.