Buckle up and stay safe this summer

Top tips for holiday travel with kids
Kat Mason from Safe Sprouts shares her top tips for safer holiday travel with kids.

WORDS: Kat Mason, Safe Sprouts

Kat is a mother of 2, Registered Paramedic and Accredited Type 1 Restraint Fitter and Educator. She is the founder of Safe Sprouts, a South Australian baby and child first aid and safety company, providing education to parents and caregivers through in-person workshops and online.

Kat shares her top 5 tips on keeping our young ones safer on the roads these holidays:

1. Check that your child’s restraint is secure, and their harness is firmly fastened

I won’t sugar-coat this. Land transport accidents are the leading cause of death in Australian children, and the leading cause of injury related hospitalisations. What’s worse, is that while the majority of us think we’ve nailed it when it comes to using our child restraint…stats suggest up to 80% of us are getting it wrong.

So, before every drive, I want you to check a few things:

  •    Is your tether strap connected properly?
  •    Are the ISOFIX/seat belt connections pulled tight?
  •    Is your child’s harness fitting firmly against their body, without twists?


Given the sobering statistics above, it always pays to have your restraint installed or given the once over by a professional fitter, and I highly recommend the team at KidSafe SA.

The Pinch Test

To check your child’s harness is tight enough, do the pinch test:

  • Pinch your child’s harness strap just below their collar bone. If you are able to gather the strap between your fingers, the harness is too loose and you need to tighten it.
  • A firm fitting harness should have no slack when you pinch it.


2. Save the snacks for outside the car

Parenting and cars-it’s a daily battle against the onslaught of rock collections, sand, craft treasures and other unidentifiable objects residing in the deep, dark depths of our back seat crevices. Adding mashed banana and cheese sticks to the mix? Let’s spare ourselves the torture!

But beyond the mess, eating in the car is also risky. Choking is silent, and with your eyes on the road, you won’t see it happen either- especially if your little one is rearward facing. Feed them beforehand, stash a snack for the destination, or plan pit stops for longer drives.

3. Plan driving breaks

Many of us will be venturing across the state to catch up with friends and family. If you’re road-tripping with the crew, don’t forget the golden rule: Stop. Revive. Survive. There’s only so many games of “eye spy” that your kids (and no doubt yourself) can tolerate. Boredom can lead to fidgeting with the seatbelts, or other distracting behaviours which can make driving a real challenge. Take a break at least every 2 hours to stretch those legs and let the kids burn off some energy.

And for our littlest passengers, it’s even more important that they aren’t left in their capsules/restraints for extended periods. Younger infants can end up in the risky “chin to chest” position, leading to trouble breathing. Proper restraint installation at the correct recline will also help minimise the chin to chest positioning.

4. Minimise direct sun exposure on your child’s restraint when parked

Hot cars come hand in hand with hot days. But did you know that direct sunlight can turn some parts of your car, like your child’s restraint buckles, into a blistering 80°C? While that’s well and truly burn territory for an adult, it’s significantly worse for little ones as they have thinner skin and no escape once buckled in. Even the cloth part of their restraint can become a burn risk when left exposed in the sun!

To play it safe, park in the shade whenever you can. Reflective window shades are lifesavers for those shadeless spots. Chucking a white sheet or towel over the restraint also helps minimise the sun’s scorching effects (just remember to remove it when your child is strapped in). Another option is to crank the aircon in your car 5 minutes before everyone hops in. Alternatively, you can place ice packs in their seats for a quick cool down- again, remember to remove them before your child gets in!

5. Never leave your child unattended in the car

Gosh, if there is any tip I wish I could shout from the rooftops with a megaphone, this is it. Each year, more than 5000 Australian children are rescued from hot cars. On a warm sunny day, the inside of a parked car can skyrocket up to 40°C hotter than the outside temperature, with much of this spike occurring within the first 5 minutes. Even on cloudy days, the car interior can reach fatal temperatures for a child. With their little body’s ability to heat up 3-5 times faster than an adults, our young ones are particularly vulnerable to heat stroke and dehydration. So, take them out with you every time, even for quick stops.

Each year, more than 5000 Australian children are rescued from hot cars.

Tragically, sometimes children are left unattended by complete accident. During the holidays, routines tend to shift, so it’s super important to check the back seat every time you exit your car. Particularly in families with multiple kids, consider making it a habit to leave your phone or keys in the back seat somewhere. This way, every time you step out of the car, you’re prompted to check everyone is with you.

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