It’s amazing how much your priorities change once you become a parent. A new father who once swore he’d never give up his vintage, high-performance Camaro suddenly finds himself shuttling a precious new life around to doctor’s appointments and play dates. Before you know it, high-performance driving quickly gives way to safety features, good gas mileage and a conservative attitude behind the wheel.
Remember, no matter how careful you are, a car is still a dangerous thing, and never more so than when a little one is in the back seat. Here are a few safety tips to consider the next time you fasten your pride-and-joy into that child safety seat and head into traffic.
Err on the side of caution
This may seem an obvious point, but there’s more to it than not hitting the gas when the light turns yellow. When your child is crying, your impulse may be to turn and check on her, but if the car’s in motion, you’re asking for trouble. Wait until the next exit or pull-in before devoting your attention to your little passenger; when you’re behind the wheel, all your attention should be on driving and what’s going on around you.
Remember how short your reaction time is, and how quickly a bad decision can lead to a crash. Put the smartphone down until the car’s in park and the engine’s off, and do the smart thing if you start to get the head-bobs – pull off and rest your eyes with a short nap before resuming. One smart decision can make the difference between life and death.
Few parts of a car are more important than the brakes, especially when there’s a little one on board. Pay attention to how your brakes feel and perform in traffic. If they feel mushy or they’re making a high-pitched squealing, clicking or crunching sound, you definitely need a brake job. If you need new brake pads, opt for a quality brand so everyone stays safe when you do have to hit the brakes hard.
Don’t neglect upkeep
Are you the kind of driver who laughs when the “check engine” light comes on? Performing regular maintenance and responding when your car’s computer says something’s not right is part of being a responsible driver and a good car owner, especially if your family has recently expanded. Take a careful look through the manual to find out when you’re due for oil changes, when filters should be changed, and what to do when a brake light or turn signal is out.
If your windshield wipers are leaving the wind shield streaky, get the blades changed as soon as possible. Impaired vision when you’re going through an intersection or changing lanes at high speed is extremely dangerous. Set up regular appointments at the local garage to have every component that keeps your car running safely checked.
Be nice to your car
Your car will take care of you if you return the favor, so avoid slamming on the brakes at the last instant. Get an oil change at least every 5,000 miles (using the oil that’s recommended for your vehicle), and pay close attention to the wear and tear on those tires. If the tread’s looking like a flat surface with little or nothing left to grip the road, it’s time to head for the nearest tire dealership. Of course, you can control this by having your tires rotated regularly, at least each time you go in for an oil change. This will ensure that all four tires wear evenly and reduce the likelihood of a blowout.
Being a safe driver means making wise decisions on the road and when it’s maintenance time. Your vehicle is a very important investment, not just as a means of conveyance, but as a safe place for your child. Go the extra mile to make sure that it is safe.