Safe driving with baby

It’s every parent’s hope that their baby settles quickly in the car because driving with a screaming child is extremely frustrating and increases the risk of an accident due to distraction. Darren Cottingham of outlines some things you can do that will make your journeys much less stressful for both you and your child.

Getting your baby accustomed to the car seat

  • Infant restraint or capsule – age 0-1
  • Convertible restraint: age 0-5
  • Front-facing child restraint: age approximately 1-4, depending on child size
  • Booster seat: age approximately 4-10, depending on child size
  • Child safety harness: age approximately 4 to 10, depending on child size

Babies are generally used to being able to move around fairly freely, therefore an infant restraint can cause frustration as they will be held in tightly. To get them used to it, bring it inside, place your baby in it and put toys within reach. Actively play with them while they are in the seat. Don’t strap your child in just yet. Once your child associates the seat with happy thoughts, you can try using the straps and having some play time. Check the straps are properly adjusted.

Once you’ve got your baby used to the restraint or capsule, he or she won’t experience any anxiety being put in the car.

Find out the rules for using a child car seat or infant restraint here.

Getting used to your car

Once your baby is used to the seat, you can try a few short trips. If you have someone who can play with baby during these first few trips, it will ease any anxiety your baby is feeling.

Modifying your driving

Think about your braking points. Can you brake slightly earlier to make stopping smoother? Can you take a better line around a corner to reduce the lateral g-forces? Simple changes can make a journey more comfortable, and also save you money through driving more economically.

Is the sun going to be beating down on your baby? Can you put some kind of shade in the window? Or, will it be quite cold in the car initially and you might need a blanket?

It should go without saying that you should never smoke with children in the car. While it’s not illegal in New Zealand (yet), it exposes children to all kinds of toxic chemicals, even if you have the window open.

Plan to stop during longer journeys

Based on your departure time, where will you need to stop for feeding and nappy changes? If you can travel when your baby usually sleeps, this might allow you to make progress that’s less interrupted.


Does your baby have favourite music? You can play this in the car (obviously not to the point at which it’s driving you insane.) Sometimes simple soundtracks such as waves crashing can be soothing, but don’t send yourself to sleep!


Do you really have to travel by car? Can you walk or take a bus where you can be more interactive with your baby?

What to do if the baby cries while you are driving
If your baby starts crying it will be distracting – evolution has designed a baby’s wailing to grab our attention! It’s best to pull over and comfort the baby. Distraction-based crashes are very common and you don’t want to risk harming you or your child.


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