keeping the children safe and occupied has always been a challenge for the responsible parent. here we take a look at the options available.
It's an unpalatable fact, but most road accidents are caused by distractions of one kind or another. Whilst fiddling with car stereo, driving whilst eating and using an illegally held mobile phone account for a large number of incidents. Failing to cope with the children in your car also contributes significantly to the tally.
Cutting down on these statistics requires a two-pronged approach. Not only must children be properly restrained by suitable seats and belts, it also helps if they are sufficiently occupied so as not to sidetrack the driver's attention. So first, some practical stuff.
If you're planning a journey with young children, you do have to be organized. And that goes beyond simply packing the boot with all their stuff, and strapping them in. Take on board the needs of your young passengers before you start. Plenty of food and especially drink are key, and if it's a long journey, put more stops in than you would allow for adult passengers. When you stop for a break, find somewhere that the kids can let off steam while you stretch your legs. Have a plastic bag (without holes) handy, but out of reach of the children themselves, to cope with travel sickness.
Then when you are back on the road, deploy toys and books (or electronic games) that will keep your children quiet. One idea worth trying is a 'day bag' full of surprises that can't be opened until you are underway - packed with pencils, puzzle books and cheap simple amusements. Even long European trips are possible in relative peace and quiet when the back seat passengers are absorbed.
Needless to say, a second adult to look after the children makes a massive difference, leaving the driver to drive. Young first-time parents in particular tend to be focused on their new offspring almost to the exclusion of everything else. For the rest of us, those "Baby on board" signs are a good clue that we may be about to encounter a driver prone to sudden noisy (and smelly!) distractions.
Now, to child restraints. Children under thirteen years of age must of course be appropriately restrained using a child restraint if less than 1.35 metres tall. Children over this height must wear the adult seat belts at all times.
Child restraint manufacturers have continued to improve the quality and functionality of their products as well as their longevity. In the early days of child restraints, parents continually had to buy a new seat as their child out-grew its current seat. These days, most designs cater for the growing child and as a consequence reduced the need to purchase anew. Many cars these days also have the desirable Isofix child seat fitments as standard allowing the restraint to be fitted and removed with ease.
Of course, no matter how good the seating system a child can still distract the driver by making an unholy racket. Bottles of juice or packets of sweets passed back as a pacifier metamorphose into ammunition with smart targeting onto the driver's head. A better solution is to resort to technology.
Many manufacturers now offer the option of in-car DVD players and it's even possible to get games systems that keep children occupied for hours on end. The choice of games seems unending so it is easy to find something that will pacify and engross the most fractious toddler into a blissed-out state of contentment. Technology has improved so much that it's now possible to offer some very advanced in-car systems, although none that can yet change a nappy.
As with most things these days, you are only limited by the range of your imagination and the size of your bank balance. Just about anything is possible with in-car entertainment. The popular choice is for LCD screens in the seat head rests linked to a ten-disc DVD changer in the boot. Cordless headphones prevent the kids strangling themselves and each can listen to a different source, be it radio, CD or DVD movie.
All of these costs, however, but it's an expense a growing number are willing to bear. Every part of your car is replaceable apart from the people inside so keeping the kids occupied and secure is invariably a price well worth paying.