As your toddler grows and starts to visit childcare centres, swimming lessons and friends’ houses, you’re likely to be spending more time in the car with them. As convenient and necessary as they are, cars – and driving – can also be a major hazard to you and your toddler. Take some simple safety precautions to ensure you minimise the risks associated with driving.
Choose and use a safe restraintIn Australia you must use a car restraint that complies with mandatory safety standards. Children between six months and four years old must be restrained in an approved and safely secured rear- or front-facing car restraint with an inbuilt harness.
Avoid second-hand restraintsBuying a second-hand car restraint for your toddler can be risky. Often these do not come with safe-use instructions – which is the law when purchasing new restraints – and may have a history of being hit, dropped or cracked, which can compromise their safety features.
Safe set-upWhen buying your car restraint, it’s a good idea to speak to your retailer about safe use. Your retailer should be able to offer a fitting service and show you how to adjust the seat for your car and as your toddler grows.
Remember that children must not be seated in the front row of a car if your car has two or more rows of seats.
Adjusting the restraintFollow the manufacturer’s instructions and any advice from your car restraint fitter about adjusting the harness to accommodate your toddler’s growth. There should be clear markings on the shoulder straps that can guide you in knowing when to adjust. Once your child has outgrown the restraint, it is no longer safe to use.
Safety and comfort for your toddler while drivingDriving with a toddler can be tough – there are no two ways about it! Toddlers in cars can be anxious, eager, noisy and excitable, all of which can be a big distraction for you. Consider taking the following steps to ensure that everyone gets to their destination safely.
- Use soft toys that are tethered to the restraint.
- Remove any loose, hard objects from the car or place them in the car’s storage.
- Restrain any pets that are travelling with you.
- Take regular breaks if travelling for long distances.
- Distract your toddler by giving them snacks, playing games or singing songs.
- Invest in a sunshade – your toddler might feel sick from overheating in direct sunlight.
- Never leave your toddler unattended in the car.
- When getting your toddler out of the car, do so from the kerbside door.
- Never start driving until everyone’s buckled up.