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Off-the-Job Safety: Staying Safe on Summer Road Trips

May 30, 2008
‘Tis the season for families to pack up their cars and hit the road on trips both short and long. Volvo Cars of North America, a leader in safety innovation, is offering parents tips to pass along to their most precious cargo: their kids.

While often overlooked in the safe driving world, kids can present parents with dangerous distractions while driving. Simple, preventative measures can keep both young passengers and adult drivers out of harm’s way.

“A distracted driver is far more likely to end up in or cause an accident,” said Bruno DiGennaro, Volvo senior safety expert. “Oftentimes driver distractions come from young, backseat passengers. Talk with your kids about safe riding practices before hitting the roads this summer. You'll help keep everyone on your road trip out of harm’s way.”

In addition to properly placing small children and infants in car seats, there are other things parents can do to keep children safe in the car. Volvo offers these tips for riding safely:

Limit the noisemakers. Parents are more and more turning to “road trip babysitters” such as tablets and smartphones to keep their kids happy and busy on long trips and when traffic gets bad. Practice moderation with this in your car. Set rules around wearing head phones or only having one thing playing at a time. The beeps and tones that these machines make can be block out the sounds of a beeping horn or even an oncoming emergency vehicle’s siren.

Pack low/see more. When the trunk or hatch gets full with bags and coolers, kids tend to squeeze stuff on to the back shelf of the car or pile their hatch area right up to the ceiling of the car. This can take away some key sight lines. At every stop, take an inventory of what has crept into these sight lines and take 30 seconds to repack your stuff before you get back on the road.

Stick together. Sometimes on road trips, it can be as dangerous out of the car as it is in the car. Rest stops, restaurants and gas stations that your family has never been to before pose risks such as not knowing when and where to look for oncoming cars. Unfortunately, public places on the open road also can be hangouts for people preying on young kids. Never send a child under 18 to a restroom by him or herself. Form teams of at least two to head inside. As alert as you are on the road, be equally as alert when you make stops.

Avoid rival sibling arguments. Let’s face it, kids who have to sit in cars for a longer time than they are used to alongside their brother or sister may pick a fight with their sibling. These family moments can be dangerous to parents behind the wheel because their instincts tell them to break up the fight just as they would if they were in their living room. Stern warnings to riders about fighting in the car need to be made crystal clear before you put the car in drive. If things get really out of hand, pull over and deal with the situation on the side of the road or at a gas station.

Keep the car seat safe for your youngest passengers. The best car seat is the one that fits your child properly, is easy to use and fits in your vehicle correctly. Install the car seat in the vehicle’s backseat. Infants under 20 pounds or younger than 1 year old should ride in a rear-facing car seat. Check to see that the safety belt holds the seat tightly in place and make sure the harness is buckled snugly around your child. Some new cars now offer integrated car seats.

Never leave your child alone in car. Young children can overheat quickly in a warm car. Older children can loosen their seat belt, climb into the driver’s seat, figure out how to undo the parking brake and potentially cause an accident.

Keep small toys in check. Children may get upset and throw their small toys at you, potentially causing you to lose control of the car and cause an accident.

Engage kids in ride safe ideas. Kids have great ideas and they are more likely to own them if they come up with them. Ask each kid rider to come up with their idea to keep their family safe on their road trip.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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