New parents often experience a lot of worry about something happening to their baby. Driving your car with a baby on board can be particularly nerve-wracking, and the inevitable anxiety is often not the best thing for your driving skill.
Here are some tips to help you drive more safely and worry less about the safety of your little one.
Use the Right Car Seat
Children should be in a rear-facing car seat until at least the age of one. In some states, it’s legally required until the age of 2, and some experts recommend keeping your child in a rear-facing seat even longer.
A rear-facing seat supports your baby’s head and neck in the event of a crash and can reduce fatalities by as much as 71%. Your first car seat should be rear-facing only with a carrier handle.
Your car seat should meet NHTSA standards and be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure the car seat works with your car; sometimes they don’t fit together. And, of course, your baby should be properly strapped in. Once your baby outgrows the infant car seat, get a convertible car seat, but keep them rear-facing.
Get the infant car seat before the baby arrives. You may need it to get home from the hospital. Infants must be in the back seat. Finally, register your car seat so you will be notified if there is a recall. Also, the first time you install your car seat, have it checked. The local fire department may do this for free. Don’t buy a second-hand car seat. You don’t know if it’s already been in a wreck.
Buckle Up Toys
If you give your baby toys, then secure them to the car seat. They will be dropped, your child will cry, and you will end up having to pull over. This also keeps toys from turning into missiles if you have to hit the brakes. Newborns are best with no toys at all, they will most likely simply sleep.
If you are using a pacifier, tether that to the car seat too. A pacifier can often be a good option to keep your baby quiet in the car.
Turn Off Your Phone
It’s always bad to talk and drive and worse to text and drive. When you also have a baby to think about, not much of your brain is left for concentrating on the road. Turn your phone off all together, rather than using hands-free or screen-based systems. It’s just too much distraction for anyone to cope with. Best place to put your phone? The back seat next to your baby. New parents forget their child is there all the time, because it’s not part of the routine yet, and this is how babies get left in cars. It might seem callous that you’re more likely to remember your phone, but you have had the phone longer than the baby.
Feed and Change First
Baby starts fussing, you look at baby, bad things happen. Reduce the risk that your baby will make trouble by feeding and changing just before you head out. If possible, time your trip for when she is already tired. If she’s asleep, so much the better. Never try to feed your baby while driving. Or even while somebody else is driving unless there’s no other alternative. Pullover first.
Be a Defensive Driver
If you don’t have defensive driving skills, the time to learn them is when you find out you are pregnant. Defensive driving means that you are prepared to react to other drivers, ready for the unexpected, control your speed, and stay alert. A defensive driving course is something every driver should consider as an investment in saving lives and time.
Use a Sun Shade
Install a sunshade in the side window closest to your baby. Nobody likes the sun right in their eyes, and that includes a young baby. Bright sun can wake up your baby and cause them to start fussing or crying. This will also help your child stay at the right temperature.
Know When to Drive
As any new parent knows: Sleep is a rare commodity with a newborn. Drowsy driving was responsible for at least 800 deaths a year, and that number is probably a lowball. The risk to new parents is as high as that to shift workers or overworked commercial drivers.
If you are trading off who gets up to deal with the baby, then have the other parent do the driving the next day. And understand that if you are not safe to drive you might have to put off the trip, whether you have your child in the car or not. Try to keep a regular sleep schedule, avoid alcohol even if you are not nursing, and be ready to pull over if you have warning signs such as yawning, missing your exit, or drifting from your lane.
Get a Back Seat Mirror
Install a mirror in the back seat so you can see your child with a quick glance in the rearview mirror. Don’t use this as an excuse to keep making eye contact with your baby, mind. Being able to see the infant will help keep you from being stressed out and the mirror will keep you from turning around to check on them and taking your eyes off the road.
Take a Buddy
Avoid driving alone with your baby as much as possible. Especially on longer trips, trade-off driving, and have the parent or friend who is not driving sit in the back with the baby. That way they can take care of your kid while you focus on driving. This may not always be possible, but if it is it will help keep you much more relaxed and your baby much quieter.
While many things are the same when you have a baby, you have to remember that you have an extra distraction in the car. This means it is all the more important to be rested, drive defensively, and remove other distractions such as your cellphone from the equation.
If you or a loved one have been injured and would like to talk with one of the most experienced personal injury attorneys in Houston, call the Baumgartner Law Firm for a no-obligation consultation- (281) 587-1111!