When we talk of distracted driving, what usually comes to mind is texting or checking mobile devices while behind the wheel. But there is another thing that can be a much bigger distraction on the road. Australian research firm AAA found that children in the car can be 12 times more distracting than using cellphones.
This may be quite a surprising statistic, but if you’ve experienced driving with kids in your vehicle, you know it’s practically a two-person job. So how do you stay focused on driving safely if you have young ones getting fidgety in the back seat? Here are 5 effective tips.
Lay the groundwork for a peaceful drive by preparing your kids for it beforehand. Set expectations for them: show them the route and how long it will take, and lay down some solid rules (e.g. behave well, no fighting, no shouting). Ask them if there is anything they would like to bring during the trip, and try to pack that together with kiddie essentials like snacks.
In addition, if you’re concerned that they might get hyperactive despite your road rules, take steps to relax them before the trip. Switch off the TV, take them for a walk, and hand them their calming item such as their favorite blanket or teddy.
Play a Game
This is classic advice for parents who drive, and certainly one of the most effective for keeping children occupied instead of mom or dad. Some favorite road trip games include I-Spy, license plate anagrams, scavenger hunt, Inverness, and Plymouth. For good measure, pack lots of travel-friendly and age-appropriate toys. Puzzles, drawing and coloring materials, and sticker books are great for toddlers and school-age children.
Stop and Smell the Roses
It’s only natural for children to have shorter tolerance than adults, so take that into consideration when you’re driving. Pit stops may be a real requirement, especially for longer trips. You may need to stop and get out of the car as frequently as every hour. Maximize your stops by getting your kids to stretch, use the restroom, and breathe in the outdoors.
Many times, what makes a child act up during a trip is the feeling of illness. There are plenty of ways your child can feel unwell on the road, such as motion sickness, headaches, and queasy stomachs. Be ready for these scenarios by packing medicines and sick bags. You might also want to avoid triggering factors in the vehicle such as certain strong odors. Further, prepare your child by letting them take preventive medicine or perform calming exercises.
Put on Some Media
Nothing beats a sing-along tune or a well-loved DVD to make kids forget everything else. Put on a child-friendly playlist or their favorite Disney movie on a portable player like a tablet. You can attach a tablet to the back of a set (or between seats) with a bungee cord or buy an inexpensive mount from Amazon. You can also try something new by playing an audiobook that makes them listen intently (most libraries now offer a great selection of audiobooks). Spice it up with a bonus quiz at the end of the story, complete with awards for the best listener.
About the Author:
Nancy Luchini is Chief of Technology at Willens Injury Lawyers, a top-rated Chicago personal injury & accident law firm. She’s a happily married mother of 3 kids who regularly goes on long road trips with her kids.