Trying to hold a small baby in a car crash at 30mph would be like trying to lift eight bags of cement at the same time – so says the Child Accident Prevention Trust to highlight the importance of always restraining kids properly in cars.
As well as child car seats, there are other simple, yet important steps to take to keep your little ones as safe as possible while on the road.
Choose the right child car seat and fit it properly
Children must use a child seat until they’re 12 years old or 135 centimetres tall, whichever comes first. After that, they must wear a seat belt.
It’s vital to get the right one and fit it properly – see our guide on choosing the right car seat here, which also includes some links to other useful sources of information.
Avoid driving long distances with newborns
The Lullaby Trust advises parents that they should avoid travelling in cars with pre-term and very young babies for long distances.
The charitable organisation bases its advice on 2018 research in which babies showed signs of potentially adverse cardiorespiratory effects when seated in an upright position at 40°.
Keep your eyes on the road
Obviously this applies to all drivers. But new parents in particular are often tempted to take a quick look back at their baby to check they are OK.
If the risk of crashing weren’t enough, be aware that distracted driving also carries a fine of £100 and three penalty points.
It’s worth spending a few pounds on a baby car mirror so you can more safely watch on your little one.
Buy some essentials
Sling a few items in a bag in the boot, including first aid equipment, warm blankets and bottled water, just in case you ever have a breakdown or are involved in an accident.
Bringing drinks along for every journey with kids is especially important in hot months. Also buy window blinds to keep the sun off your young child, and out of their eyes.
Make sure you always have a charged mobile phone with you in the car.
Keep them in the back
Although a child can legally travel in the front of the car, it’s safest for them to travel in the back.
Never leave them unattended in the car
It can be especially tempting to leave your young child in the car if they are asleep and you don’t want them to wake up. But the risks are numerous, including an outbreak of fire, breathing problems on warm days and hurting themselves in electronically operated windows.
Similarly, don’t leave your car keys in your car when you’re not in it.
Parents of small children will have learnt to be masters of distraction. You’ll need to put those skills to practise once they get to the age when they start squirming around in their car seat, unbuckling it themselves, and even making a bid for escape from their seat. Try rolling out a play-tray or book, or simply persuading them not to do it.
Don’t allow smoking in your car
It’s illegal to smoke in a car with anyone under 18. As well as seriously damaging your child’s health, both the driver and the smoker could be fined £50.
Don’t let a ‘baby on board’ sign obscure your vision
These signs are generally used either to alert emergency services to the presence of a child, or encourage other motorists to drive carefully in the presence of a car carrying a child.
But a survey by Confused.com back in 2012 showed baby on board stickers caused one in 20 motorists to have an accident, because they can obscure a driver’s vision through the car’s rear window. So if you have one of these signs, it’s worth checking it’s in a sensible position.