Handling Child Distractions on Your Summer Road Trip

family-on-road-tripBetter child safety on the road takes planning. From safe seating to handling common child issues like screaming, bickering and fighting, it is important that parents know about the safest way to handle these distractions.

Motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death of children in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 723 children ages 12 and younger died and another 128,000 were injured in motor vehicle accidents in 2016.

If you will be traveling with children this summer, it is important that you take steps to protect them and other occupants in the vehicle. If a distracted driver causes injury to you or your loved ones, contact an experienced Knoxville car accident lawyer from Greg Coleman Law for a free legal consultation.

Bring Another Adult When Possible

One study showed that children are 12 times more distracting to a driver than a mobile phone. In fact, researchers found that the many parents take their eyes off the road for an average of three minutes and 22 seconds during a 16-minute trip. This data is based on a recording system that monitored driving behavior during 92 trips over a three-week period.  Results revealed that parents were engaged in distracting activities in almost all the trips. The most common types of activity included:

  • Looking at a child in the rear seat
  • Watching the rearview mirror
  • Talking to a child
  • Assisting a child
  • Playing with a child

One way parents can prevent these kinds of distractions is having another adult in the vehicle with them who can help monitor the children and take care of their needs.

Set Expectations with Your Children

Before getting in the car with your children, establish clear expectations for their behavior. Explain that you need to focus on being a good driver. Let them know that they can help get you there faster by staying in their seat with their seatbelt fastened. Prepare them by telling them that the ride might be longer, and they may have to wait for what they want. This may help prevent them from wanting constant attention.

Plan Frequent Stops

Another effective way to avoid distractions with younger children is to plan frequent stops. Young (and even older) children may require occasional stops to do the following:

  • Use the bathroom
  • Eat
  • Drink
  • Stretch their legs
  • Change positions

Practice Safe Seating and Buckle Up

A CDC study revealed that in a single year, more than 618,000 children 12 or younger rode in vehicles without using a child safety seat, booster seat or seat belt some of the time. Of the children who died in a vehicle crash in 2016, 35 percent of them were not buckled up.

To help avoid child injuries, it is important to make sure that all children are properly buckled up and in the appropriate type of restraint. A rear-facing child seat is recommended for children younger than two. Some parents may decide to keep their child buckled in a rear-facing position for even longer to better supports the child’s head, neck and spine.

Once children transition to a forward-facing seat, they should use a booster seat until they reach the weight and height limits of the seat, which is typically up to 65 or 70 pounds. Children should then switch to a booster seat. Once the child is at least four feet nine inches tall, typically around eight to 12 years old, he or she should be able to wear both the shoulder and lap belts to be safe. Children 13 and younger should always be in the backseat.

Mentally Plan for Distractions

Before heading out, create a mental plan for how you will respond to more urgent distractions, including if your children are fighting or get loud, if a child gets out of his or her car seat, or if some other medical emergency arises while driving.

Here are a few tips:

  • Never try to handle your child from the driver’s seat, as this can result in a serious accident
  • Stay calm
  • Be mindful of traffic around you and carefully pull off to a safe area on the side of the road
  • Do not get out of the car, unless you are in a safe location to do so
  • Tend to your child, return him or her to the seat and buckle him or her up

Some additional ways to plan for your trip and stay safe include:

  • Have items that your children need within their arms’ reach
  • Feed children before traveling
  • Pack snacks for older kids
  • Pull over when necessary
  • Give children distractions like videos or music
  • Avoid talking on the phone while driving

Contact an Experienced Lawyer for a Free Consultation

If you were injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, it is important that you understand your rights and are able to protect your right to recovery. An experienced attorney from Greg Coleman Law can discuss your legal rights and options during a free consultation.

Contact us today to schedule your complimentary, no-obligation consultation.