The start of the school year signals the return to the hustle and bustle of busy days with packed schedules. With mom and dad off to work or trying to get other errands taken care of, it is nearly impossible for parents to be everywhere with all of their kids.
Hence the reason that carpooling has become an essential function in the lives of many families across the country. Whether it involves taking kids to and from school or shuttling them back and forth between extracurricular activities, carpooling can help your day run a little smoother.
When everyone needs to be at the same place at the same time, it makes perfect sense to let your children carpool with friends and family members. But are you also taking the necessary measures to make sure this is always done safely?
The unfortunate reality is that being in a motor vehicle can be a dangerous spot. In fact, statistics show that the number one cause of death for children ages 1-12 in the United States is car crashes. So how can you keep your kids safe in the carpool with others?
1. Always know who will be driving.
Before you allow your child to ever ride in someone else’s vehicle, it is imperative that you know and trust the person. If you have seen them use good judgment in other situations, the odds are favorable that they will be a smart driver as well. In addition to making sure the individual has his or her driver’s license and will not knowingly put your child in a dangerous position, it is also important to have a conversation about carpool plans when the designated driver becomes unavailable. Make it clear that you do not want other individuals driving your child around, especially if there is a chance they may use a new driver as their backup person.
2. Ensure that your child will be properly secured.
All individuals who will be driving in the carpool must be fully educated about which type of seat each child needs to be in and how to properly install the device. Whether your child needs to be restrained by a car seat, booster seat or seat belt, all carpool participants need to know what to do. Not only that but they need to actually make sure your child is restrained. One in five parents admit to bending the safety rules when it comes to carpooling.
3. Be aware of the plan.
As you chat with friends and family to establish a schedule for your carpool group, you should also use this time to come up with a plan that each driver should follow. Keeping things consistent is one way to help eliminate misunderstandings or mistakes from occurring. Everyone should be on the same page about where and when the children should be both picked up and dropped off. This will help parents and children know what to expect and prepare for each day.
4. Educate your children.
Since you won’t be in the car when the other adults are driving, it is essential to educate your children about the situation as well. Let them know that they can come talk to you if they ever feel unsafe in the vehicle or if they are left inside of the car alone. Trust what they have to say, and never force them to ride with someone that makes them feel uncomfortable in any way.
Guest post: Mario Cattabiani is the father of two and Director of Communications at Ross Feller Casey, a law firm in Philadelphia.
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We originally published this post in September 2015. We updated the article for accuracy and comprehensiveness.