Updated: Apr 3, 2021
It is about that time of the year when plans for trips are in overdrive because Christmas is right around the corner. This year may be a little bit different but people and families are still travelling. Over the past week, the CarHoot Team has received numerous story submissions from our online fuel giveaways and a good number involved car trouble stories where the unfortunate car trouble survivors were parents and caregivers ferrying their kids to or from school, sleepovers or on a road trip when their cars hit some kind of trouble. So, we went ahead and did a ton of research, because if we are being honest, car trouble causes so much stress and anxiety and with younger passengers on board, things can get very intense pretty quickly; especially with toddlers and babies! With CarHoot by your side, things are much but there are still some life-saving tips that we all need in these situations:
Standard Car Safety Tips for Parents & Caregivers
Before we go into safety tips for kids when your car is in trouble, we have to first go through the basics:
Ensure the baby/toddler/young child is safely and properly strapped into their car seat at the centre of your back seat and ensure that they ALWAYS seat in the back. This is because airbags weren’t designed for kids and can not offer them the same level of protection they do to adults. The car seat straps should all fit snugly, especially over the shoulder and thigh areas. The rule here is straps should always lie flat, never twisted. TIP: If you can hold or pinch even a bit of the straps harness between your fingers, it’s very loose. For slightly older kids, consider the use of a convertible seat that can carry up to 30kgs weight.
Keep your kids comfy for the road in attire that allows their legs to move. Shorts, loose-fitting jogging pants or sweats and even leggings are great options. This will make it much easier to strap them in properly. If the weather is freezing cold, first strap in your child, then cover them up with a blanket. TIP: NEVER buckle a blanket under the straps.
Slouching and head flops are common problems for babies and especially newborns in car seats and this can be addressed by adding support to their shoulder and neck areas. TIP: rolled up diapers or towels are great DIY solutions in case your seat isn’t specially made with custom head and shoulder supports. NEVER use a blanket to pad your child. For babies with tilting heads while in their car seats, just make sure the car seat is at a 35–45 degree angle.
Ensure your child keeps ALL their limbs, body parts in the car. Especially for toddlers, talk to your child about why its important not to stick their head or hands outside car windows, even when your car is parked.
Always ensure that your childproof car door lock settings are always active. This feature is available in most cars and ensures your young one can not leave the car unsupervised or without your permission.
Snacks and water for long trips are essential and will help keep your kids hydrated, calm and well behaved. Avoid sugary drinks and snacks as you want your toddler well behaved and relaxed. TIP: forward-facing car seats are best, especially during snack time so you can easily monitor what they are doing from the driver's seat.
Make sure any loose and unnecessary items are strapped or placed in the glove box to avoid the risk of injury. TIP: Teach your kids to use the cup holders if they are old enough in case of bottles or drinks.
Keep your child happy in the car by engaging them with conversation, music, audiobooks, soft handheld toys and create a reward system for good behaviour in the car and on trips. A rowdy toddler, crying baby or angry child can greatly affect driver concentration. TIP: It is okay to pull over, park your car and give your child some attention if the need arises.
Never leave your child unattended in a car. Opening the windows slightly does not help reduce heat levels on a hot day and especially in dark-coloured cars the heat levels rise quite rapidly.
Ensure as a driver you maintain extreme caution. Avoid driving under the influence or fatigued at all costs. It is okay to pull over and take health breaks even when you are late. Avoid speeding, using your phone and even hands-free devices, as they can limit your concentration while driving.
Life Hacks During Car Trouble In The Presence of Kids
These things happen so this is what you can do to ensure your day and your kids day doesn’t get worse:
STAY CALM! You are probably freaking out, especially if you are in the middle of nowhere but panicking will make the children anxious and increase your stress levels. Take a few deep breaths and make the necessary calls. TIP: If you have CarHoot on your phone, describe your issue in as much detail as possible to our team and we will dispatch the required help in under 30 minutes if you are in Nairobi.
If your car starts making funny sounds or is not performing the way it usually does, do not hesitate to investigate. TIP: Park your car on the side of the road preferably away from bends and activate the hazard lights. If you have to step out of the car to make checks, calmly communicate the same to your kids if they are older. For younger kids, take another deep breath…your case is a little bit different.
If you are the sole adult or caregiver and your kids are young, and you need to check on the condition of your car, first make calls to family members or close friends and notify at least two different people of the situation. Secondly, ensure that your indicators are on and enlist the help of fellow motorists or friendly bystanders to ensure you have extra eyes on your child or children and car.
If you ABSOLUTELY have to step out of the car for a little while, ensure your kids are within your line of sight and the front seat car window are fully open and that your kids can easily call out or you can hear your child.
Always travel with a car safety kit, that has snacks, an extra car phone charger, snacks, water, blankets, jackets, diapers, tissue, wet wipes and a reflective vest aside from first aid items.
Keep your kids in the loop especially if they are older and give them updates so that they avoid worrying too. TIP: Make the situation part of the adventure and even use it as a learning opportunity and teach them how to deal with problems calmly and effectively.
If you have to wait for roadside assistance, entertain your kids and keep yourself and themselves busy by playing games like I Spy or even singing songs until help arrives.