I am not a big fan of cars. I like to have two feet on the ground and feel in control of my destiny. This is the sort of neuroses I developed when I became a mum. We have a car but it spends most of its time parked up outside our house. It’s useful for big shops and visiting family, but it’s not something we use every day. When we do use it, I am the absolute worst passenger. I am always reaching for my imaginary brake pedal with my foot and I often gasp loudly when lorries pass my window.
The new baby is due to arrive during the summer holidays and Laurie will be taking a month off work to mark the occasion. I am really looking forward to him having such a big chunk of time off work, not just because it will mean he has plenty of time to bond with the new baby (and get me biscuits), but also because it means Ebony will get a decent summer holiday. I can’t imagine being stuck at home with a breastfeeding mama and newborn baby would be much fun, but with Laurie around too we’ll be able to have days out as a family.
With that in mind, I imagine we’ll be using the car quite a lot more during the summer holidays, so I thought I’d share some family car safety tips:
1. Make sure your children are in the correct car seats
I am very particular about car seats. I wrote a few weeks ago about the new booster seat rules coming into effect later in the year. Ebony is still rear-facing at four and a half because it’s so much safer in the event of a crash. When she does eventually move into a booster seat, it will definitely be one with a full harness and back. We need to dig Ebony’s old baby car seat out of the loft for the new baby and double check that it meets all of the current safety recommendations. Safety advice changes regularly and we bought the car seat four and a half years ago so we definitely need to check that it’s still safe.
2. Have your car serviced
Our car has recently had a full MOT and service which is a relief. Before Ebony was born, we had our old car serviced to check that it was safe. I don’t think you can be too careful when you have a newborn baby in the car. It’s always worth getting your tyres checked and, if necessary, replaced. Take a look at Point-S for competitively priced car tyres. If there are any issues with your car, it’s worth getting them sorted now so you can feel confident that your car is as safe as it can be on the roads.
3. Make sure all car seats are correctly fitted
I have read estimates that as many as 80% of infant car seats are fitted incorrectly. If fitted incorrectly, a car seat may not be safe in the event of an accident, so it’s very important to make sure your car seat is fitted properly. Using IsoFix seats is an easy way to make sure your seat is fitted properly. We don’t have IsoFix seats and instead secure the seats into the car using the seatbelt as a tether. This means we take extra care when fitting the seats, but it is slightly terrifying to me that human error could get in the way.
4. Check car seats as routine
I might be about to out myself as a neglectful parent, but there are times we have driven a little way without strapping Ebony in. Not on purpose, obviously. But there were a couple of times in those early days where we would make it to the end of our street before realising neither of us had strapped Ebony in. Why? Because we’d had about four hours sleep in six weeks and we didn’t have functioning brains anymore. We very quickly got into the habit of double checking with each other that the seat was secure and Ebony was strapped in. I’m even more ashamed to say it happened recently too and, this time, we made it quite far before realising she wasn’t strapped in. Luckily she’s a little older now, so we simply ask her if she’s strapped in before we set off and that makes things a little easier.
5. Pull over
Frustrating as it can be to keep stopping and starting, it’s much safer to pull over than it is to try and help your child whilst driving. If your toddler can’t reach his drink or toys, don’t lean back to grab it whilst driving, instead find a safe place to pull over so you’re not multitasking whilst driving a moving vehicle. If your baby isn’t a fan of car journeys, you may find yourself needing to make frequent stops. It’s not fun, but it won’t last forever. Your baby may be ready for a feed, nappy change or may be feeling too hot or cold. Don’t try to work out what’s wrong whilst you’re driving, instead, reassure your baby verbally whilst you find somewhere safe to pull over.