Essential Road-Trip Safety For Families

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We choose to travel by road trip far more now that we have a child (and our airfare costs have increased by 50%). We drive in snowy winter weather to ski resorts and crazy summer traffic to get to and from our beach or mountain vacations. In between we take city breaks up and down the East Coast. Both on the inside and the outside, we’re harder on our car. So it’s important take good care of it and follow smart safety practices at any time of the year.

Print the check list!

Our road-trip prep list reminds you what to do to get ready and how to be safe once you’re out on your adventure. Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable check list.

Our Road-Trip Safety Tips

____ Stock the car

  • Water (to drink, plus extra for filling the engine, or cleaning hands or messes)
  • First Aid kit and hand sanitizer
  • Tire Change kit, something to kneel on
  • Jumper cables
  • flashlight
  • travel-size multi-tool
  • window scraper
  • small shovel
  • Blankets
  • A roll of paper towels
  • Read what AAA and the NHTSA have to say about car safety in summer and winter
  • first aid kit is handy to keep in the car

____ Use the right child seat

I know it’s tempting to move your child to increasingly smaller, lighter, easier-to-use seats and boosters as fast as possible. And it’s especially tempting to move an older child up when a younger sibling is ready for that next seat.

But car seats and boosters do a lot. Boosters make sure seat belts are positioned correctly. And both can provide extra protection in a crash or fender bender.

I’ve seen so many kids I drive tell me they are too big for a booster, then spend the entire trip tugging at a seatbelt that’s pushing into their neck instead of comfortable cross their shoulder. A properly used booster would prevent this.

Boosters also give shorter kids extra height, which can help with carsickness and boredom. My child complains far less on road trips when she can look out the window.

proper car seat use is important on a road trip

  • Use the right car seat or booster.
  • Use that seat until your child has grown out of it height and weight-wise even if it’s beyond the suggested age.
  • Make sure your seat is installed correctly. A surprisingly large number aren’t.
  • Have your kids take bulky or puffy coats off in the car; they keep car seat straps from being as tight as they ought to be to prevent whiplash and other injuries.
  • For very little ones use a fleece bag that’s made for car seats and has openings for the straps.
  • For older kids keep blankets in the car and crank the heat.

Read more about car seat safety and general car safety with kids.

____ Keep yourself informed

  • If your car is overdue for routine service, this is a good time to do it.

    Mention your upcoming drive so they check things like the battery, spark plugs, water, oil, windshield wiper fluid, anti-freeze and so on.

  • Check the traffic and weather where you are and where you’re going.
  • Check your tire pressure frequentl,y especially around the change of seasons and if you are driving between zones with significantly different temperatures.

navigating and knowing what's ahead is important on a road trip

____ Know when to park and wait

It’s tempting to just want to get where you’re going and get the driving over with. But delays are part of travel and better to arrive late and safely.

  • Switch drivers every 2-3 hours so no one gets road fatigue.
  • If you’ve only one driver it’s OK to pull over and let her have a cat nap when she’s feeling tired.
  • When the weather is too bad – be it summer rain, thunderstorms or winter snow and ice—pull over and wait it out.
  • If you are sitting in your car in snowy or icy weather and plan to keep the motor running, make sure the tail pipe is clear of ice, snow or mud. If your exhaust backs up it will make its way into your car surprisingly quickly.

Print it out!

Download and print: Road Trip Safety Check List

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