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HALF-TERM DRIVING: Seven common mistakes when driving with children

With half-term already here for some and around the corner for others, a cautionary message is being issued to parents and guardians about the importance of vehicular safety when travelling with children. The advice, provided by the experts at, pinpoints seven prevalent errors that many might be making unknowingly, potentially putting their young passengers at risk.

Central to the guidance is the use of suitable car seats or seat belts tailored to a child's age, height, and weight. This comes in the wake of findings that improperly restraining children significantly elevates the risk of injury in the event of a crash. The Highway Code mandates that children must be seated in an appropriate car seat until they reach 12 years of age or a height of 135cm, with those under 15 months requiring a rear-facing seat. Non-compliance not only endangers children's safety but could also lead to penalties including a fine of up to £500 and points on the driver's licence.

Another critical concern highlighted is the hazard posed by loose items within the car, such as bottles, toys, and mobile phones, which can become dangerous projectiles in a collision. Drivers are urged to heed the Highway Code Rule 98, which advises securing all objects to prevent such accidents. The impact of an unsecured 20-pound object can resemble 1,000 pounds of force if the vehicle crashes at 55 miles per hour, underscoring the potential for severe injury.

The guidance also addresses the distractions of multitasking and the dangers of driving when fatigued, urging parents to focus solely on driving and to rest adequately before journeys to ensure the highest level of attentiveness and safety.

This half-term, by embracing these recommendations, parents can ensure a safer travel environment for their families, mitigating the risks associated with common yet often overlooked driving oversights.

Helen Rolph, price comparison expert at, said: “As many families look to embark on road trips this half-term, it can be stressful getting everyone packed and ready to go but it’s important for parents to be aware of these risks before hitting the road, to help keep everyone safe.


“Some of the issues found during our research may not be widely known such as failure to use the child lock correctly and loose items becoming potentially lethal objects at speed, so as we head into the half-term break it’s an ideal time to highlight these dangers.”


Here are’s seven common mistakes when driving with children:


1 Improper use of a car seat


It's crucial to follow the guidelines provided by car seat manufacturers and the law, to ensure children are properly restrained. Car seats must be used for children until they’re 12 years old or 135cm tall. Babies under 15 months old must be placed in a rear-facing car seat, however it’s recommended to keep them rear-facing as long as possible for maximum safety. Parents can opt for a car seat that’s based on either their child’s height or weight.


2 Car seat not installed securely


Over half, 56%, of child car seats are incorrectly fitted. Parents should carry out regular checks to make sure the car seat is securely fitted. If the car seat is slightly loose then it’s an indicator that either the seat isn’t compatible with the car or it’s not properly installed. Parents should closely follow the manufacturer’s manual on installation or get the car seat fitted professionally the first time. It’s also recommended to hoover and refit a car seat regularly to make sure it isn’t loose and food debris isn’t hindering the buckles.


3 Loose items in the car


Loose items in the car can become projectiles during a sudden manoeuvre or crash and can pose danger to passengers, especially children, as they can cause severe injuries if they hit someone. Beverages should be placed in drink holders, phones should be securely placed in a mount and other loose items should be stored in the trunk or sealed compartments and never left on the parcel shelf.


4 Wearing bulky clothes in the car seat


Bulky clothing such as coats should not be worn in a car seat because they leave extra space under the harness, which means that during a collision the child can slip through the straps. That’s because the coat adds extra bulk that can compress during a crash. To keep children warm, parents should dress them in thin layers instead and use a blanket or a car seat cover over the harness.


5 Not turning on child lock


Child lock should always be engaged when driving with children. Children may be curious or open the car door accidentally while moving which can cause an accident or be seen by the police as careless driving which may result in a hefty fine and points on licence. Child lock also comes in handy in situations where children may exit the car without realising the potential dangers around them, such as when the vehicle is parked in busy areas or near traffic.


6 Multitasking


Drivers can get distracted by their children's behaviour in the car, whether it’s attending to their needs or trying to calm them down. However, it's important to stay focused on the road in order to operate the vehicle safely. In such cases, it’s better to pull over and make a stop to take care of the children’s needs before hitting the road again.


7 Driving when tired


Exhausted parents should never sit behind the wheel, as fatigue can negatively affect their reaction time and ability to concentrate and navigate the road safely. If feeling drowsy while on the road, it's best to find a safe place to pull over and take a break before continuing the journey. Sharing driving responsibilities or using public transportation should be considered when fatigue becomes a concern.


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