This post is sponsored by Diono
Traveling by car with a baby does not necessarily mean a road trip. Driving baby from Point A to Point B may not require as much planning and packing but you still need to be just as safe. I’m sure there’s a statistic that states how accidents are more likely to happen close to home. This makes sense since it’s more likely you’d have your guard down during a routine you follow day in and day out vs. following your GPS on an unfamiliar highway.
Car seat rules and regulations change frequently, so whether you’re a new, first-time mom or one who’s got this driving baby thing down pat, you could stand to brush up on your safe driving.
Driving Baby Safety Tips
Use the Correct Car Seat for Baby’s Age & Size
Newborns and younger babies are happiest in what I unofficially call “buckets.” They are the car seat/infant carrier combos that make traveling with and transporting baby easier especially if you have a compatible stroller or purchased it as part of a travel system.
Most infant carrier car seats are FAA-Approved for air travel and can be installed without the base if necessary. But what makes these seats good for first-time parents is the base that ensures correct installation once you hear that “click.”
However, many convertible car seats are 3-in-1 and rated for newborns as well as toddlers. Since most car seats expire from 6-10 years, the purchase of a good one means you would only need to buy one seat per child, and possibly reuse it for siblings depending on the make and model and also properly maintaining and storing the seat.
Ensure Proper Installation of the Car Seat
When driving baby, you can buy the safest car seat out there but if it is not installed correctly, it is not safe. Car seats have come a long way in terms of ease of installation, but getting it right, especially the first time, requires a dedicated effort. This is an instance where a paid professional is worth the investment… not only to install the seat properly but also to show you how to do it.
With children rear facing for much longer than before, it’s important to get the angle right and to ensure the seat does not budge, which can be a difficult and frustrating task. Many local law enforcement departments offer car seat clinics. Here you can not only have a seat installed but also have your installation inspected.
This applies to the infant carrier car seats as well. And if you’ll be transporting between cars, the purchase of an additional base might be worth the investment or learn how to install the seat without the base.
Do Not Use Car Seat “Accessories” Unless Manufactured by Your Car Seat Company
Car seats undergo rigorous safety testing. This testing is done by the individual manufacturers. So it’s safe to use the same brand accessories as the brand of your car seat, but do not use anything from another brand, even if they say they are “compatible.” Items like vehicle seat protectors, infant head support, car seat covers or liners, and “piddle pads” are not safe to use unless they are from the same manufacturer as your car seat.
Do Not Dress Baby in Bulky Clothes or Coats
If baby is dressed in bulky clothes or coats, it is too difficult to ensure they are buckled correctly in their car seat. Also, the straps and buckles can shift as the bulky clothing shifts. Further, since you’ll be driving baby and they’ll likely facing backwards, you won’t be able to see if they’re overheating or experiencing discomfort in their seat.
It’s easiest and safest to dress baby in light layers and use a cover manufactured by the same brand as your seat to keep baby warm in winter months. Of course you can warm up your car in advance as well. What on earth did we do before remote starters? (If you don’t have remote start on your current vehicle, get it on your next one. I know it seems extravagant but honestly, it’s so worth it.)
Take Frequent Breaks When Driving Baby
Even if you’re in a rush or fear running into traffic, it’s important to plan for regular breaks if you’re traveling by car with baby. Diapers need changing at inopportune times, and feeding while driving can be messy but is also incredibly unsafe.
Frequent breaks are good for you and your schedule as well. Not only do grown ups need to stretch their legs during long trips, but if baby is a super car seat sleeper, you might be in for a wakeful night if they sleep all day on your drive.
Stop if You’re Tired
I’ll repeat that again. Stop if you’re tired. It can be incredibly tempting to push on if you’re making good time and baby is content. But getting where you’re going quickly won’t matter if you don’t make it there at all. If you are sharing driving duties with a partner, all the better. But make a pact that if both of you are too tired to continue, just stop.
Driving Baby: Less Stressful When You’re All Safe
Choosing to drive instead of fly can save a lot of money when planning a vacation. And going from Point A to Point B is necessary in most of our lives. Driving baby is definitely less stressful when you know baby is safe. These tips for safety when traveling by car can lighten the stress load when planning that part of your journey.
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- Survival Tips for Road Trips with Baby
- Baby & Toddler Road Trip Tips: The 5 Rs
- The Best FAA-Approved Car Seats for Travel
- Travel Stories: An Eastern Canada Road Trip with Baby
- A Road Tripper Is Born – The Tale of Our Drive to Florida
- Travel Stories: An Eastern European Road Trip with Kids
- Our First Family Road Trip: We Did the Drive to Florida!
- Drive or Fly? Traveling on a Budget
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
This was an excellent article filled with useful ideas! I grew up camping and like introducing my children to the experience.
The article is extremely useful when today the rate of families who have a need for young children to travel is very high. Requires absolute safety when having children in the car. Thank you very much.
If you are able to split the driving responsibilities with a companion, that is ideal.