Baby on Board Basics: Why Driving with Your Child Is Different Than Driving Yourself

November 16th, 2018 by

We’ve all seen them – the yellow caution signs hanging in the rear windows of SUVs and wagons, warning other drivers to be careful because there’s a baby on board. That new bundle of joy is probably swaddled in a receiving blanket or two, and tucked carefully into an infant car seat.Or, it could be that the parents have a rambunctious toddler in a car seat, laughing and playing as they travel.

Introducing a baby to the family brings an incredible amount of change. Your daily and nightly routines change. Your social life changes. Your priorities change. Even the way you drive alters when you have a baby on board.

How Driving Changes When You’re Not Just Responsible for Yourself

When we’re young and not yet tied down with parental responsibilities, we drive much differently than when we have a helpless new life that depends on us for everything in the car. How does your driving change? Actually, there are quite a few different ways that things change.

The Amount of Care Exercised: When you have a baby on board, it’s important that you drive carefully to avoid jostling them or startling them. You attempt to drive without making sudden movements and sharp turns. You avoid harsh acceleration, and you begin braking well before you need to come to a stop. This is about more than just caution – it’s about helping your little one feel safe and to stay calm and content.

Paying Extra Attention: When you’re young and single, you don’t pay a lot of attention to what’s going on around you. Sure, you look both ways before pulling out in the road, and you pay attention to the car ahead of you on the highway, but when you become a parent, you suddenly become hyper-vigilant because you realize that threats to your little one can come from anywhere and everywhere. You pay more attention to other drivers around you, as well as to traffic patterns. You drive more cautiously in inclement weather, and more.

 Finding the Best Routes: Without a child on board, you can drive pretty much anywhere without too much worry. You probably didn’t put much thought into the route you took to the store before your new bundle of joy arrived. Afterward is another story, though. Now you plan ahead so that you can take a longer but safer route to your parents’ house or to the grocery store. You plan ahead so that you can avoid traffic snarls or gridlock that might lead to an accident. It’s all part of being a concerned parent.

Travel Times: If you’re not yet a parent, chances are good that you don’t give a lot of thought to when you get on the road. A drive to the grocery store after dark isn’t much different from heading that direction during the day. A visit to the park for a run in the late afternoon might mean heading home after the sun sets, but that’s no big deal. That changes when you’re a parent. The dangers of nighttime driving become much, much more apparent, and you change your driving habits so that you can be on the road during the daytime, instead.


Driving Style: Before your baby was born, you might have been an offensive driver. That changes with your new bundle of joy. You’ll find that your extra watchfulness and wariness on the road transforms your style – you become a defensive driver and you begin avoiding any unnecessary risks.

Driving Habits: Do you have a lead foot? Do the law enforcement officers that patrol your route to work know you on a first-name basis? That all changes with a new baby. Not only will you stop speeding, but you’ll drive below the speed limit. Other bad habits will change, too. You’ll find yourself following farther and farther behind the car ahead of you on the road to avoid a possible accident. You’ll find that you hit your brakes gently, and more.

Ultimately, your driving habits change because you have a baby on board and your parental instinct is to protect that new life.


Baby on Board: Automakers Step Up Their Game to Safeguard Your Family

Once upon a time, automakers really didn’t offer much in the way of safeguards within passenger vehicles. During the 60s and 70s, many vehicles did not even come with seatbelts – there weren’t even laws on the books that required you to wear them. That has all changed, and it’s done so with surprising speed. 

Today’s passenger cars are incredibly safe in comparison to those of yesteryear. Not only are there seatbelts for every riding position in the car, but these are advanced models with auto tensioners and other technology designed to activate in the case of an accident to better protect occupants without causing additional injuries. We now have airbags scattered throughout the cabin, and specially designed areas of the vehicle body that crumple during an impact to help reduce injuries to occupants. All of this means that you can drive more comfortable knowing that your baby on board is safer.

Indeed, you’ll find that automakers have taken a number of different steps to help safeguard you and your family.

Body Design: The body of the average automobile might not seem like a safety feature, but it is. Today’s cars are made from very different metal than they once where – a one-inch strip can hold up to 200,000 pounds without tearing. It might be thinner than ever, but it’s also stronger than ever. This metal is specially forged, heated, stamped and formed to help direct the forces created during an accident and prevent as many injuries as possible.

 Frame Design: The frame of your automobile is also designed to help protect you, your baby on board, and other occupants in the event of an accident. The average car frame is made from a combination of mild steel, high-strength steel, very high-strength steel, extra-high strength steel, ultra-high strength steel and aluminum, and those are put together to create a protective frame around you.

Airbags: Airbags have gone from being a novelty to being a vital part of the automotive protection system. We have steering wheel airbags, knee airbags, passenger front airbags, side airbags, side curtain airbags, and more.

LATCH/ISOFIX: If you’re a parent in the US, then you need to make use of the LATCH system that allows you to connect a car seat without having to use the seatbelt. The additional top anchor and leg support ensure that the seat does not tip. Outside of the US, this system is called ISOFIX. It debuted in VW vehicles back in 1997, but did not make it to widespread use in the US until 2007.

Collision Avoidance Technology: Automakers are still working to make your driving safer and protect your family while you’re on the road. One way they are doing that is by providing collision avoidance technology. This includes a wide range of different things, from bumper-mounted impact sensors to rear-view cameras, driver assist systems, self-parking systems, object detection systems, multi-view camera systems, and more.

Ultimately, driving by car is actually the safest way to travel with your family.


Buying a Car? Get the Right Features to Protect Your Little One 

In the market for a new or new-to-you car? If so, you’ll need to make an informed decision not just as a car buyer, but as a parent. You have very different needs from buyers without children, and you’ll need to know some of the most crucial considerations when buying a car.

Rear Seat: You’ll need to install your child’s car seat in the back seat of the vehicle, so you need to make sure that the back seat is amply sized for the car seat, but also that you can reach it easily from the front. Never place the car seat in the passenger seat because that is the most dangerous location in the event of a collision. Although it may seem second-nature to have your baby on board near you, it is much safer to put them in the safe and secure backseat

Trunk: As a parent, you’ll need to carry a lot of stuff with you. Babies and toddlers need fresh diapers, fresh clothing, and more. You’ll also need to carry bottles and formula, as well as pacifiers, and a number of toys. All of that stuff needs a place to ride, and it’s usually in the trunk. Make sure the trunk is amply sized with plenty of space.

Overall Protection: While automakers have done a great job of making vehicles safer, not all of them are created equal. You’ll need to pay attention to some key factors when buying a vehicle, including crash test ratings, roll-over ratings, and other survivability elements (number of airbags, airbag positions, whether some can be deactivated to better protect your child, etc.). You will also want to check if the rear doors have child locks on them, and learn how to use the system to prevent your little one from accidentally opening the door once they reach toddler age.

 Climate Control: As an adult, you can usually “make do” with a car that doesn’t have a working air conditioner or heater. However, your child is less adaptable and more susceptible to temperature swings. You need to make sure that any car you choose has a fully functional climate control system – both heat and air should work and should work well.

 Sun Protection: Your child has very sensitive skin, and direct sunlight can burn it very easily. You’ll want to make sure that the passenger windows have tinted glass, or that you invest in sunshades to help block sunlight.

LATCH/ISOFIX: Finally, make sure that the car you buy uses the LATCH system (called ISOFIX outside the US). The LATCH system makes it simple and easy to install a car seat, without having to worry about routing seatbelts through the back or over the front. The anchor points also help to ensure stability while you’re on the road.

With a little bit of research and a critical eye, you can make a smart decision about the vehicle you purchase.


Essential Tip to for Child Safety on the Road

Driving with a baby on board (or kids in general) is about more than just being hyper alert and driving safely. You’ll face a number of challenges here. This section will help you overcome those hurdles.

 Positioning: One of the most challenging issues is where to locate your child seat in the back. The answer is “it depends”. If you’re driving with your spouse or significant other, then the child seat should be positioned behind the driver seat so that the co-driver can reach the child. If you’re driving alone, then the seat should be positioned behind the front passenger position so that you can reach the child.

Stable Temperature: Children can become overheated very easily. They can also get a chill more quickly than adults. You want to avoid significant temperature fluctuations. You can use your climate control to help avoid this. Set your climate control for a comfortable temperature – say 72-degrees F – and leave it there. If you do not have an adjustable climate control system, you’ll need to handle things manually. Shoot for keeping a consistent, comfortable temperature no matter what the weather outside might be doing. You want to make as consistent of a climate as possible for your baby on board.

Entertainment: Children get bored easily. Even infants can become fussy without some sort of stimulation. That can be challenging while you’re on the road, particularly during a long trip, but you have quite a few options. There are many different in-car entertainment systems on the market that allow you to play DVDs and Blu-rays. You should also carry an activity bag filled with toys and games for your little ones to enjoy while on the road. Just make sure that all the toys/games are age appropriate for your children to avoid choking hazards and other dangers. 

Distracted Driving: It’s easy for a parent to become distracted by children – they’re fighting with one another, crying because they’re bored, or throwing game pieces around the cabin. That can lead to distracted driving, which will result in an accident. There are a few ways that you can avoid this, but perhaps the single best option is to bring another adult with you. You can also avoid some issues by leaving as early as possible or driving longer distances at night so there’s a better chance that your children will sleep most of the way.


In the End

Ultimately, driving is a dangerous activity, but it’s still the safest way to get your family from one place to another. Today’s cars are marvels of modern engineering, and automakers have taken many steps to make passenger cars safer for families.

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