Top Tips For Keeping Your Family Safe When Driving
When you’re out on a short drive to drop your kids off at school or on a long journey to visit an attraction, friends or family, as a responsible parent, you want to do everything you can to ensure your safety and your family.
The Department of Transport reported that in 2019 there were 39 fatalities on UK roads in children aged 15 or under – so it’s critical to do whatever you can to keep your family safe when on the road.
We have listed some top tips to help keep you and your family safe when travelling in your vehicle.
Storing items safely
It’s always best to store loose items such as coins, mobile phones, purses, water bottles, laptops and groceries away safely in either the boot or other storage compartments.
Why? An American study found that unrestrained items in cars caused over 13,000 injuries there. In 2018, a 3-year-old Spanish child was unfortunately killed when her mother’s laptop, which wasn’t stowed away, struck her in the face after a road collision.
Furthermore, Highway Code Rule 98 informs drivers to secure objects when loading a car. The code says, “Make sure any heavy or sharp objects and any animals are secured safely. If there is a collision, they might hit someone inside the vehicle and cause serious injury.”
Does this mean that parents should remove any entertainment devices from their vehicles during long journeys?
According to Nick Lloyd, road safety manager for RoSPA, “This is clearly a very tragic but very rare incident. Any unsecured object within a vehicle has the potential to become a projectile and injure someone in a crash, and parents should be aware of this. Still, at the same time, it may be more dangerous to have an unentertained child in the back of a car on a long journey distracting the driver.”
Keep your mobile phone out of sight. Not only is it illegal to use your mobile phone when driving, but it only takes a few seconds of being distracted looking at your phone to cause a severe road accident. If you need to use your phone, pull over to somewhere safe and turn the engine off before calling.
Likewise, if you see a fellow motorist who stops and starts suddenly, or weaves in and out of their lane, or their speed repeatedly slows down to a crawl and then speeds up again, they could be texting or otherwise distracted. In this instance, it’s best to reduce your speed or change lanes to help keep your distance until you are away from the vehicle in question.
Mirrors, Windows and Doors
The weather can get scorchingly hot during the Spring or summer months, and children can quickly overheat in cars.
You can prevent this from happening by installing window blinds to help protect your children from the heat and glare of the sun.
Window blinds are generally cheap and easy to attach to the windows, giving you peace of mind and your children a more comfortable journey.
It’s also worth locking the rear windows (if possible) to avoid your children opening a window. Not only will this help to prevent a window blind from flying out of the window if it was attached, but there’s also a risk that your child might get their limb stuck if it’s dangling out of the window while it’s sliding back to the top.
Most vehicles are fitted with child safety locks nowadays, and these should be activated to prevent children from accidentally opening doors while the car is either moving or standing still.
You can typically find the child locks inside the car doors and flick a switch to activate them. If you’re unable to find where they are, refer to your car’s manual.
Check your vehicle's tyres
According to Department of Transport statistics, motorists driving with unsafe tyres in the UK contributed to over 3,449 accidents.
A Halfords' survey of 2,000 customers also found that as many as two-thirds of respondents didn’t know the legal minimum tread for tyres – which is 1.6mm. Not only is driving with unsafe tyres putting you and your family at risk, but you would also face an eye-watering £2,500 fine and three penalty points per tyre if caught by the police.
Follow these steps every couple of weeks to ensure your tyres are kept in good health:
- Check for damage, including cuts, tears, slashes and bulges. If you see anything untoward, get them checked by a professional
- Check the pressure at the recommended manufacturer level. If it's too low or even too high, this will reduce the ability of the tyre to grip the road
- Check the tread depth of each tyre individually. Place a 20p coin at various places in the tread. If you can see the outer edge, it's time to replace the tyre
Don't leave a child unattended in a vehicle
Whether to leave a child alone in a vehicle, even if it’s just for a few minutes to go and pay for some petrol or shopping, or to drop something off is a contentious issue that splits the opinion of lots of parents.
While there is no specific law against leaving your child unattended in a car and there is no legal age for leaving your child alone, if it places them at risk, you face prosecution – although the phrase “at risk” is open to interpretation. Some parents have been prosecuted when they and the police have had differing views of what it means.
The Government advises parents to judge the risk based on the situation and their own child’s maturity. The NSPCC advises that babies, toddlers and young children should never be left alone, while children under 12 are also deemed not mature enough to be left alone for a long time.
The NSPCC says that when left alone in a vehicle, a child can quickly become distressed and anxious.
However, each child is different, and every parent needs to make their own decision based on the situation and the level of their child’s maturity.
We have listed some of the things you should consider before making any such decision:
- How long you’ll be away from the vehicle – popping in to pay for petrol is vastly different to leaving your child to go and do the family shop
- The age of your child – older children might sit happily alone in a car while younger ones might become more distressed and possibly try to leave the vehicle to come looking for you
- Can you see your vehicle or not? If you can keep an eye on your car, you might be able to see if your child is upset or not
- Where is the car parked? Is it parked safely and not exposed to potential impacts from other vehicles?
- What’s the temperature? Is it particularly cold or hot? During hot periods the temperature inside a stationary vehicle can soar by 10 degrees in only 10 minutes, which can reach dangerous levels
- Would your child be likely to get out of their seat and inadvertently press any controls which could cause the car to move?
Follow the Law
Correctly fitting the child restraints and a car seat is vital for keeping your baby safe on car journeys.
UK law stipulates that all children under the age of 12 years old or 135cm (4ft 5 inches tall) – whichever comes first – has to use the correct child restraints.
Please refer to our detailed guide on Child Car Seats for more information.
Remove coats and blankets
When placing your child in a car seat with a jacket or blanket on, the coat or blanket’s thickness can prevent you from tightening the car seat’s harness close to your child’s upper body.
In the unfortunate event of a road collision where your child is pushed out of the seat and into the harness, the forces can be so strong that the air in the coat is released. This can result in your child having too much space for movement and not being secured tightly enough.
If you need to use a blanket to help keep your child warm, lay it across them once they have been safely strapped in and ensure it’s not between the child and the harness straps.
Don’t remove your child from the car seat while the vehicle is moving
It might seem like an obvious statement, but it can be tempting for a parent sitting in the back to remove their baby from their car seat and comfort them for a few minutes if they are crying and distressed.
Needless to say, it’s just too dangerous, and the driver should pull over first and come to a stop in a safe place before you remove your child from the car seat.
Seat belts are designed to only fit around one person and must never be used to strap around an adult and a child – bucking two people with one seat belt could injure both occupants in the event of a collision.
Unlike a few decades ago when it might have been deemed ok to carry a child on a lap, it’s against the law now.
Please refer to our detailed guide on for more information.
Further tips for keeping your family safe in a car:
- Praise your child for keeping their seat belt on and leaving the car’s locks and windows alone
- Teach your child not to disturb the driver by kicking the driver’s seat or by shouting as the distraction could lead to an accident
- If your child is sick or upset and it’s causing a distraction, the driver should pull over into a safe place
- Ensure your child keeps their limbs and head inside the car while its moving or parked up on a road
- Keep snacks and drinks in your car in the event of an emergency or to keep hydrated during hot weather
Please visit our ‘Top 10 Winter Kit Items For Your Car’ for more ideas on what items are good to keep in your car if you breakdown during the winter months