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Get the car and kids ready for holiday road trips

With the holiday season fast approaching, families will soon start preparing for those long drives ahead. “Keeping the kids safe and entertained is an important part of the trip,” says Dewald Ranft, chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI). 

He says it is essential when travelling with young children to ensure that they are properly secured. Statistics show that up to 70% of car seats are incorrectly installed. Parents must also ensure that the seat is the age-appropriate size and kids who are big enough to use the normal seat belts are buckled in at all times.  The rule is that  Children aged from 4 to 7 years must travel in a forward-facing child restraint, also with an inbuilt harness, or a booster seat with a seatbelt or child safety harness. Toddlers should never travel in the front seat of a vehicle.

“Children, especially toddlers, get fidgety when sitting still for more than two hours. It is important to stop at regular intervals to give everyone a chance to stretch their legs and refuel for the next leg. Try to pick pit-stops with fun activities for children such as jungle gyms. This gives kids a chance to work off some energy without distracting mom or dad while they drive!”

Making sure the car is in tip top condition ahead of the drive also needs to be a priority. Ranft recommends looking out for pre-holiday safety check specials often offered by workshops ahead of the holiday season. “Don’t leave the service until the last minute as you may need new parts that need to be ordered and could take a few days.” Road Fatality reports show that the majority of major crashes occurred as a result of a tyre burst prior to the crash, followed by brakes. Other vehicle factors include smooth tyres, headlights blinding or faulty, and faulty steering.

He also reminds drivers that every car should contain a breakdown kit with a flashlight in the event of an accident or breakdown after dark, and a fully charged phone for communication during emergencies.

Dealing with bored and grumpy children on a road trip can be challenging, so Ranft offers these helpful tips for happy, safe journeys:

  • Pack lots of healthy snacks in the car to reduce the amount of hours wasted at often crowded roadside restaurants along the way. Juice boxes, cereal bars and the South African favourite, biltong, are always a good idea for hungry little people.
  • Pack lots of water to prevent dehydration, and wet-wipes to clean sticky hands and spills.
  • Revisit the traditional car games of 21 Questions, Eye Spy and or Numberplate Cricket.
  • If these don’t appeal, smartphones and tablets are loaded with games to appeal to a range of ages, and with the increase in educational games, could even teach your child a new skill by the time you reach your destination.
  • Separate the kids. If you are travelling with more than one child in the car, try to keep the kids apart as far as possible to avoid fighting when monotony sets in.
  • Make lots of stops along the way to allow kids to get out and stretch their legs and play. Most garages these days have kids areas or small playgrounds which are ideal.
  • Listen to kids music or audiobooks which can actually entertain the whole family.