As a parent or caregiver, you constantly need to drive your kids somewhere, whether it’s to school, soccer practice, the doctor’s office, or their friend’s house. It can be an adventure with multiple kids in the car but also extremely dangerous if you get too distracted by their actions or noises.
With a car full of kids, you don’t want to ignore their needs even when you’re driving. However, you can help yourself stay focused on the road using various methods without making them feel neglected. Here are five ways you can avoid distracted driving and keep yourself and your kids safe.
1. Set Up the Navigation
If you’re going on a road trip and need to use your GPS, prepare it before leaving so you don’t have to fiddle with it while you drive. Your navigation system is beneficial, so you don’t get lost, but avoid letting it become a distraction by setting the volume to a level where you can hear it even if kids are noisy in the background.
Look at the roads and directions to make sure you understand where you are going to avoid continually referring back to the GPS. Check traffic before you leave as well so you can have an idea of how long it will take to get to your destination when the kids ask you.
Being prepared with directions beforehand will help you stay focused on the road, and you won’t have to scramble to find alternate routes. If you need to change your destination or need new directions, find a safe place to pull over and stop the car before reconfiguring your GPS.
2. Keep the Kids Entertained
When kids are bored, they can become loud or whiny. They might start fighting or throw a tantrum, and they might pester you with questions to keep themselves occupied. To avoid these behaviors, make sure you have items in your car to entertain them on long trips.
You can let them bring books to read or a phone or tablet to play games or watch movies. If your car has a DVD player, pop in a movie and let the kids watch and relax quietly. Provide snacks or drinks to keep them satisfied, so they don’t need to ask you for anything while you drive.
Another way you can keep kids entertained is by packing activity bags. These are especially helpful during long car rides. You can fill activity bags with magnetic travel board games, snacks, toys that won’t get lost in the seats, and other fun things. You can have your children fill the bags themselves with their favorite things beforehand so they’ll have something to do.
3. Stay Away from the Phone
Phone use is one of the biggest distractions for drivers today. It has led to roughly 1.6 million crashes every year in the United States. While cell phones are necessary to be prepared in case of a car accident, you want to avoid using them while driving.
Your kids might ask to use your phone to stay entertained, and allowing them to use it can help you stay less distracted while driving. If you need quick directions or to send a quick text, have your kids do it for you. Designate someone to be the texter or to answer phone calls if needed.
Ultimately, no text or call is worth risking your child’s life. And if they see you using your phone while driving, chances are they will do the same when they eventually get behind the wheel.
4. Prepare the Playlist Beforehand
These days, most cars allow you to connect your phone using Bluetooth, allowing you to answer phone calls and play your music while driving. It may be tempting to change songs or playlists while you drive, but prep kid-friendly music beforehand so you don’t need to change it on the road.
If your kids want to change the music selection while you’re driving, you can give them access to your phone or just say no. If you have another adult in the car, allow them to be the car deejay and choose the songs.
5. Eat Before You Drive
If you need to eat a meal on the go with your kids, make sure they are fed but avoid eating yourself while driving. Any activity that requires one hand off the wheel for an extended amount of time puts you at risk of an accident. Instead, take a break and stop in a safe place to eat your food before returning on your drive.
If you are in a rush, try to eat before you drive so you won’t be distracted by your food or hunger. Prepare a trash bag in the backseat beforehand so kids won’t drop their garbage on the floor or hand it to you, distracting you further.