Whether you’re volunteering for a school field trip or on deck to chauffeur your nieces and nephews, carpooling kids is something most of us get roped into at some point. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, until your eight-year-old niece points out her parents never let her sit in the front seat for safety reasons. Whoops!
Carpooling saves time, money and there’s that environmental bonus as well. But if I’m being honest, the main reason I’m into carpooling is not having family close by to help us out when we’re in a bind. By helping other parents, they’re more likely to swap off with us in the future.
While it seems like a no brainer, there’s actually more to carpooling than you might think. Do you have a plan to distract wee ones before they distract you? What happens if you get into an accident? Should you drive other children if you don’t have extra insurance coverage? I checked in with the experts – AKA other moms and Esurance to get the skinny.
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The surprising thing about carpooling
As children age, they confide less in their parents. Put them in the backseat with a few of their buddies and you wouldn’t believe what juicy tidbits get revealed.
I’m always amazed at how unfiltered they are. Don’t they realize I’m right there listening in? It’s not scandalous stuff, but you’re likely to find out who’s a bully, who’s being bullied and friendship dynamics you never knew existed.
Besides kids, I’ve had several teachers hop in my car en route to a field trip. Each time I’ve been worried about keeping up the small talk. Pretty quickly, however, I get the DL on school politics. It’s like I’m a spy and they (kids and teachers) have no idea. It’s awesome.
Managing distractions on the road
Here’s a travel tip: distract the kids before they distract you. You want your youngest (and likely most vocal) passengers to be so engrossed during the drive they’re not pestering you.
Besides the annoyance factor of answering “How much longer?” whines, kids can cause a raucous and that distracts drivers. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, children are 4x more likely to distract a driver than adult passengers.
As much as you might be tempted to tune out, carpooling kids is not the best time to catch up on your podcasts. Tis a bummer, I know. Go ahead and turn the radio on, but if you’re catching up on current events the littles in your backseat might revolt.
Best to keep them entertained with boppy pop music or an audiobook. Utilize screens to keep them quiet or give some thought to organizing car games.
Throw a few car bingo sheets in the car or yarn for cat’s cradle. Baking sheets make mini desks and they can go to town with colouring sheets and crayons.
If they’re really demanding your attention, don’t turn your head around to speak to them. Keep your eyes on the road at all times. Pull over if you must to address the problem. They know that means business, plus it’s way safer.
We all know how finicky it is to install children’s car seats properly. You want to ensure if you’re adding another carseat to your car it’s also locked down correctly. That’s because the responsibility for ensuring the car seat is installed correctly rests with the driver.
Even if you’ve got another parent in your car and they installed their kid’s carseat in your vehicle. It’s still the legal responsibility of the driver to ensure all passengers in the car under 16-years-old are wearing appropriate seat belts, or are in an appropriate and properly installed safety seat.
If there’s an accident, you could be held as contributorily negligent in an injury – even if the crash wasn’t your fault.
Make sure you have plenty of food and water for all passengers. I try to dole out refillable water bottles for each child, but when in a rush, I grab the plastic waters stowed next to the car in our garage.
The Costco size box of granola bars is right there, too. And plastic bags are essential for garbage and potential car sickness.
One thing I quickly realized in my early carpooling years was the importance of cleaning out your vehicle prior to chauffeuring. You’re probably going to need any available space for their backpacks and sporting gear.
Then there’s the embarrassment factor. One little Miss told her parents how much fun it was to drive in a dirty car. Nice.
The safest seat in any vehicle
You’ve probably heard the backseat is safer than the front. How much safer? A lot – like 59 to 86 percent safer according to a study by the University of Buffalo.
And get this, the middle seat is 25 percent safer than the window seats in the back. But here’s the catch: that middle backseat is only safest if it’s got a full seatbelt – not a lap belt. Good job, Flea!
What kind of insurance do you need for carpooling kids?
You want to make sure you have the right kind of insurance coverage anytime you’re driving children that aren’t your own. In fact, many schools require you purchase additional insurance in order to be able to drive kids on field trips.
According to Esurance, Canadian carpoolers should have a $1 million liability limit on their vehicle insurance. If your school board requires you to a $2 million liability limit, that will probably set you back approximately an additional $20.
Some insurance companies require you to get what’s called a SEF 6a endorsement for carpooling. Some companies charge for that, and some don’t.
Esurance doesn’t require it, and doesn’t charge, as long as you are carpooling, – even if that means getting compensated for your gas expense – but once you are getting paid for taking kids or adults around, you’ve crossed the line into being “ for hire” and you will absolutely need a special endorsement and it will cost a higher price.
If you don’t have enough liability on your vehicle insurance, or aren’t sure what you need, I encourage you to grab a quote from Esurance.
You can ask questions, review your policy and even make claims online or by phone. Their claims and customer service is open 24/7.
Do you carpool kids? What are some of your tips?
This post is sponsored by Esurance. Thank you so much for supporting the brands that help support Travels with Baggage.