There is something wonderfully exciting about a road trip … especially for the smaller members of the family. But, while you’re planning the ‘padkos’, scouting the best spots to stop for a look break and charging all the devices, don’t forget these important tips for keeping your kids safe while travelling…

As families, we often spent a lot of time hopping in and out of our cars. Whether it’s the daily school run, popping out for groceries or weekend trips down to the beach, it’s always good to remind both yourself and your kids about the importance of keeping safe in the car, especially when you’re about to embark on a long road trip. Here are some great reminders and tips from motus.cars:

Buckle up basics
Everyone needs to buckle up for every trip, no matter how short. That means mom and dad too. You can set a good example for children by always wearing your own seatbelt and only start driving when all seat belts are done up.

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Follow the law
Car safety for children starts with correctly fitting child restraints and a car seat is fundamental for keeping your baby or toddler safe on car journeys. In SA the law states that it is illegal for an infant (a child under 3 years) to travel without being strapped into a suitable car seat – and crash tests show that children under 1.5m are much safer in car seats or boosters. Children strapped in with seatbelts before they are tall enough to achieve a good fit for the seatbelt, were found to be three times more likely to be injured in a crash than adults. Ensure you get the correct car seat for your child’s age and weight and install it correctly (see tips below).

Never leave children alone in a car
Even if you’re only stepping out of the car for a few minutes, you should never leave a child unattended in a car. A variety of dangers can occur, including a child fiddling with controls causing the car to move. On a hot day, the temperature inside a car can also get to dangerously high levels and cause serious harm or even death. Children are particularly susceptible to overheating and dehydration, and inside a hot car, a toddler’s body temperature can rise three to five times as quickly as that of an adult, which can lead directly to heatstroke and death.

Be prepared in the event of a hijacking
Hijackings unfortunately remain a reality and anyone who drives a car needs to be aware and cautions. Being a victim of hijacking while you are alone in your vehicle is traumatic enough – but having your children with you is even more so. Never leave your children in the car alone, especially if you must get out to open a gate. It is advised that they exit the vehicle with you, so that you are all separated from the vehicle should an attack occur. Also, when travelling with your children, The National Hijack Prevention Academy recommends that the youngest child should be seated behind the driver and the oldest to the left. If you are hijacked and need to get out of the car, you can move quickly from the driver’s door to the door directly behind it. You can reach across the youngest child to unstrap the older child. The eldest child can cling to you as you remove them both together. Take the key with you. You need the key as a ‘negotiating tool’ – the perpetrators want your vehicle, and you want your children. If you have a central locking system, remember to open all doors before getting out of the car and handing the keys over to the hijacker. This will allow you to open your rear passenger doors and get your children out while the hijacker is getting into the driving seat. Remain as calm as possible and follow the hijacker’s instructions interacting with them only to make clear what movements you are about to make.

Don’t be tempted to text
We all know the temptation to check our cell phones when we hear a notification – but reading and responding to messages while driving is a huge no-no. Put your phone on silent while driving. The risk that you put yourself, your passengers and other road users in by being distracted by your phone is not worth it.

Activate child safety locks
To prevent children from opening the doors while the car is moving, activate the child safety locks on your car doors. These locks are usually found on the inside of the car doors. You should also lock the power windows to prevent your children from getting injured. Children can unintentionally trigger a power window, trapping hands, fingers, arms or even their head. At the push of a button, the driver can make the car much safer for children by having complete control over power windows.

Tips for using child car seats:

  1. Always use a car seat, even on short trips. It’s obvious, and it’s the law, but we still sometimes see children travelling without a car seat. Accidents can happen, even on the shortest trips. Many children are taken on trips of less than 3km without being strapped in, therefore, if unrestrained, an impact can prove fatal from speeds of 20km/h. In the event of an accident when a child is not restrained by a safety device, the risk of being ejected from the car is 6 or 7 times greater.
  2. Avoid second-hand car seats. You can never be sure a second-hand car seat is a safe car seat. You don’t know if it’s been damaged in an accident, or has pieces missing or has been misused in any way.
  3. Use the correct size car seat. It’s best to buy a car seat for your child based on their current height and weight. Investigate and consider all your options when purchasing a seat that claims to cover multiple age groups.
  4. Install car seats correctly. Car seats for babies under 1 year or 80 cm in height must always be rear facing; If your car has ISOFIX Points, you can select any car seat with either an ISOFIX connection or opt for a seat that uses your car’s seat belt. ISOFIX Systems provides increased safety by eliminating human error when the seat is installed in the car; If you don’t have ISOFIX you can use a seat belt installed car seat.; Pull the car seat’s safety harness If you can just slip one fingerbetween the harness and your child’s chest, it’s tight enough.
  5. Take your child’s coat off. A thick coat can make the harness less effective. If your child is cold, use their coat as a blanket over the harness.
  6. Make sure the safety harness is at the right height and not twisted. The harness should always be adjusted to the correct height setting which is at shoulder height. Check there are no twists in the straps.
  7. Beware of activated frontal airbags. The safest place for a rear-facing car seat is on the back seat. This avoids the danger of front airbags inflating against the seat. Deactivate the front airbag if you use your car seat on the front passenger seat and place this seat in the further most position.
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