Driving long distances is tedious for children, so a long drive should be planned to include rest stops, toys, games and refreshments.
- Babies and adults rarely suffer from travel sickness in motor cars, and the driver, who is fully occupied, is the least prone to it. But car sickness particularly affects children between the ages of five and 15 years.
- Sickness can be alleviated or prevented by a smooth style of driving and thoughtful preparation of the trip. A large meal should not be eaten just before setting out.
- Toys, games and puzzles are a good way of keeping children occupied, but reading or writing should be avoided in the car, as should dangling ornaments, all of which can induce nausea.
- ‘Spotting’ games should be confined to looking directly ahead, as watching for objects flashing by the sides of the car can cause eyestrain and nausea.
- Ensure that the car is adequately ventilated and, if possible, allow the child suffering from car sickness to sit in front where the ride is usually smoother.
- It is also advisable to take along a waterproof ‘sick bag’ (such as a plastic supermarket packet), but be careful to keep it out of the reach of infants and small children. If vomiting does occur, stop the car as soon as it is safe to do so, and encourage the child to walk about and have sips of water.
Protecting the young passenger
Children can be severely injured in a minor accident, or even by a sudden stop or turn. A child’s head is large and heavy in proportion to its body, and he/she is likely to be flung forward head first. (An infant with a mass of 4,5 kg who is involved in a collision at 50 km/h can be flung forward to strike with the same impact as an object with a mass of 136 kg!)
Suitable restraint is vital if injury is to be avoided. In addition, child-proof locks, where fitted, should be engaged so as to render rear door handles inoperable from inside the car.
The safest place for a child in a car is in an approved restraint system fitted in the centre of the rear seat. Child restraints spread the force of impact over the strongest parts of a child’s body and limit head movement. Purchase only child restraints or seats which bear the mark of the South African Bureau of Standards, and which are sold with full fitting instructions and all nuts, belts or screws needed to fit it.
Remember though, even the best restraint is of little value if its straps are not properly adjusted. You should not be able to fit more than two fingers between the strap and the child. The harness should also be checked for correct adjustment each time the child is buckled in, and may require re-adjusting depending on the thickness of the child’s clothes.
Children should never be carried on a passenger’s lap as they will be flung forward violently in the event of an impact, no matter how tightly they are being held. Two children should never be buckled together in the same harness – when being flung forward they could bang their heads together, possibly with fatal consequences. It can also be fatal to buckle a child and adult together, as the child may suffer internal injuries from being crushed between the adult and the belt.
Stopping along the way
The frequency of stops may depend on the ages and dispositions of the young passengers, as well as the availability of facilities and shade.
At the rest-stops allow the children to run about and play in a safe place, to work off some of their pent-up energy.
Although you may have to make some unscheduled stops for minor emergencies, try to determine suitable stopping-places in advance, such as picnic sites, viewing sites, garages, and restaurants with play areas.
Variety and discipline in the car
To make the trip as varied and interesting as possible allow children to change their seating positions in the car after each stop. On dull stretches of road, introduce ‘spotting’ games or hand out special toys. If the car has a tape deck or CD player, play a favourite cassette or compact disc.
Do not allow pets to romp about with children in the car.
The following rules should also be enforced and explained as to why they are necessary. Children should not:
- Stick their head or arms out of the window;
- Throw anything out of the window or inside the car;
- Alter the safety harness;
- Touch the door handle, lock or window handle;
- Distract the driver.