The June holidays are here. If you are planning a road trip, you will need to be extra careful. During school holidays in South Africa road accidents increase dramatically as thousands of people make their way across across the country to various destinations.

If you are a parent, then you’ll know that driving with kids in the car can be a huge distraction and impair your concentration. Distracted drivers are unsafe drivers; the more time you spend solving fights, bargaining with your kids or looking in the rear-view mirror, the less time you’re devoting to monitoring traffic.

International studies show that nearly 25% of crashes occur when drivers are dealing with kids in the back seat. Many kids get bored on long road trips, sometimes fight with each other and need stimulation in order to keep them settled and happy. This is normal behaviour when it comes to children, but is problematic on the road.

Being on road during a peak traffic holiday period increases the chances of accidents happening. Add to that the stress of travelling with kids and it’s essential to take extra care. Here are some good suggestions for driving more safely with children:

  • Set expectations. Lay out the rules in advance by telling your kids ahead of time how you expect them to behave. Share the agenda with them and explain the family rules. For example, you might say you’ll be driving from 9am to 4pm and stopping for a picnic lunch around noon. Each person can choose music for an hour, and you’ll take away the toys of any child who misbehaves.
  • Keep focused. Whatever is going on with your kids in the car, it’s your duty to keep your concentration on the road. If there is another adult in the car, then let them take on the responsibility of dealing with the children and their needs.
  • Be prepared. Pack lots of entertainment and toys. DVD players, music, audiobooks, iPads and other tablets can go a long way to keeping them occupied during the journey. For younger children try stickers and other little toys to keep them happy.
  • Play games. Old school games like ‘I spy’ and other interactive, guessing games can keep the mood lighthearted and the kids entertained so brush up on some of these.
  • Pack lots of snacks and water. Sometimes bad behaviour is a result of hunger or low blood sugar. Healthy travelling snacks are pretzels, dried fruit and crackers. Save the junk food for desperate scenarios!
  • Make regular stops. Stop for the toilet and for the children to be able to run around, stretch and let off some steam. This will prevent cabin fever and boredom. Having fun on unplanned stops makes the drive much more exciting.
  • Avoid losing your temper. Going crazy is only going to increase the stress of everyone in the car.
  • Reward good behaviour. Using incentives such as no complaining for the next hour means a stop at an ice cream stand. Or leaving your sibling alone gets some one-on-one time with Mom or Dad in the pool. A whine-free morning means picking where to eat for lunch. Use this strategy in reverse, too.