• Be an Overprotective Parent When Your Kids Are in the Car: 4 Gentle Reminders

    Don't be a distracted driver. Heed these family road safety rules!
    by Rachel Perez .
Be an Overprotective Parent When Your Kids Are in the Car: 4 Gentle Reminders
PHOTO BY iStock
  • A July 2018 study in the United States, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, found that parents are the top perpetrators of distracted driving, and they are most guilty when their kids are on board!

    About half of the 760 parents who participated in the study talked on a mobile phone, either hands-free or using a handheld phone, while driving when their children between the ages of 4 and 10 were in the car. One in three parents read text messages, while one in seven used social media while driving with their kids. 

    Researchers found that about 14.5 percent of parents did not use car seats consistently. And those who didn't buckle their kids with a seatbelt or in a car seat were the ones who more likely to use their phones while driving.

    The results above are not far from the reality we have in the Philippines. According to Ford Philipines, nearly half of car accidents in the Asia Pacific and in the Philipines happen because of distracted driving. Almost half of Filipino drivers admit to using their mobile phones even when children are on board. (FYI, drivers who use their mobile phones when driving could be breaking the Anti-Distracted Driving Law.)

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    Parents can sometimes be overprotective of their children, and if there's any place that trait becomes useful, it's when our kids are in the car. During Ford's Family Road Safety Day, experts from Tuason Racing School (TRS) shared the four most basic tenets of safe driving when you have kids on board. 

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    1. Focus on driving. 

    We all need this gentle reminder because the act of driving requires multi-tasking already. You're constantly checking the road and the other vehicles on your left, right, rear and back. You cannot take your eyes off the road or your hands off the steering wheel. Anything that prevents you from doing these things is a distraction. 

    According to experts, normal road driving uses around 85 percent of a person's mental load. Checking your phone, eating, drinking, putting on makeup, and more, are considered distractions. Any sound that is too loud or that prevents the driver from hearing traffic sounds, such as talking on the phone and listening to loud music are auditory distractions. Cognitive distractions, on the other hand, include tiredness, medication, and worries cause diminished concentration.

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    2. Buckle up and use car safety seats.

    Older kids, especially when seated in the back seat, should always wear the seatbelt. Wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of fatality by up to 50 percent for front-seat passengers and up to 75 percent for rear-seat passengers. Rear passengers don't have airbags, and they're more likely to be tossed around inside the vehicle in a collision. 

    Children under 12 years should never ride shotgun or in the front seat. They are not tall enough to use the seatbelt, which is designed for adults, or persons who are four feet and nine inches.

    This is where a car safety seat and Isofix comes in. The Isofix system is an eight-point harness technology that makes sure that a car seat is correctly and securely latched to the vehicle's seat. (Read more about car seat guidelines here and how to choose one that's right for your child here.)

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    Sadly, a proposed bill that would require all children under 12 years to use a car safety seat while in transit on any road, street or highways is still pending, but we shouldn't wait for it to be passed to follow.

    Just today, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children remain in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Most rear-facing type car seats can accommdate children as old as 4.

    "It’s best to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. This is still the safest way for children to ride," Benjamin Hoffman, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement and chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention, said via a statement.

    AAP previously recommended that children under age 2 should be on a rear-facing car seat, while toddlers and preschoolers should be in a forward-facing car seat with a harness. Tweens should use a booster seat until they reach the recommended height for optimum seatbelt use. 

    While car seat does not necessarily have an expiration date, though some car seats have been recalled (read: not safe to use anymore). Children outgrow them since car seats can only protect kids within a recommended height and weight limit. (Click here for suggestions on car seats that grow with your child.)

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    3. Choose a family-friendly vehicle.

    This can mean a lot of things for every family but always look for safety features such as airbags and Isofix-compatibility. Ford had shown us how they equip their family vehicles with a Lane Keeping System, Active Cruise Control, Curve Control, Blind Spot Information System, and more. (Check here for our list of family-friendly cars under P1 million.)

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    4. Always check your car's condition. 

    According to TRS president JP Tuason, don't just jump in and start the car. Before getting in, check under the car for leaks and tire pressure; seat, steering wheel, and mirror positions; fuel, water, oil indicators; wipers and washer fluid; horn; and signal, brake and tail lights. And secure any loose objects. 

    Don't miss your change-oil recommended schedules. On a monthly basis, checked the battery and cables; car liquids such as brake fluids and coolant; and tire condition such as uneven wear, cracks or bulges, and tire tread depth. Tires affect a car's balance, stability, and movement. Ideally, all four car tires and the spare should be changed at least every two years.

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