Whether you have one child or five, driving them to and from commitments is a hassle. Hours can go by while you wait at the school pick-up or drop-off lines—and then there are all the extracurriculars after that! Add a daycare stop and the commute to work in there and your day is FULL. And much of it was spent in the car.
A solution to this modern problem is carpooling. It’s a helpful way to save time and fuel, get your kids where they need to be, and prevent traffic congestion. Today, we’ll be discussing carpooling and giving you tips to make your ride sharing experience a good one. Let’s talk carpooling:
What is Carpooling?
A carpool is when a group of people choose to ride together somewhere rather than drive each of their separate vehicles. They usually rotate drivers each week to relieve the burden on any one member of the carpool.
In this case, we’re talking about carpools for children. So, one parent picks up all the kids and takes them to the mutual destination, whether that’s school, dance, soccer, daycare, or the like. But we see adults carpooling as well — to work, events, or anywhere!
Carpooling is beneficial, because it gives everyone extra time and gas money while contributing to better traffic conditions. (The more people carpool, the fewer cars on the road.) Carpooling is super convenient and easy to organize. However, there are always some potential issues and concerns. So, we’re going to break down our top 10 tips for creating and maintaining a successful carpool for your kids:
10 Carpooling Tips
Approve all the people who are allowed to drive.
This person will be driving your kids, which means they will be responsible for their safety throughout the ride. When inviting families to join your carpool, make sure you’re okay with the person who does the driving duties. Make it really clear who is allowed to be behind the wheel while participating in the carpool.
For instance, you won’t want a parent in the group volunteering to drive only to pass the baton to their nanny or their teenager without your approval. Or, you don’t want a spouse with several driving citations on their public record to alternate duties with their partner. These are hard conversations to have after the fact, so make expectations very clear before you start!
Ensure everyone knows about car seat and seat belt safety.
If you’ve been reading our content for a while, you know a thing or two about car seat safety. You know what ages should be in what kind of seat and how to strap them in. (And, if you don’t, browse our blog, Insta, and YouTube). We even have a Car Seat Progression eBook for the roadmap. However, not everyone makes vehicle safety that much of a priority.
This is a BIG problem because car accidents are a leading cause of death for children and adults. And, a proper child safety restraint system can reduce your child’s risk of injury or death by 70%. So, there should be no compromises on how a child is secured in their car seat.
Confirm everyone understands where each child is supposed to go and how they should be buckled. Seat belts must be fitted properly across the chest. Harness belts should be tight enough they leave no room for pinching. You should use no vehicle seat covers or aftermarket products on the car seats. And, that’s just to name a few car seat safety rules!
If you really want to make sure everyone is on the same page, consider having everyone enroll in a car seat course. Then, you’ll all be working with the same information and all the drivers will understand the risk of cutting corners. This is one of the most important carpool tips on this list. Check out our Caregiver’s Guide to educate and inform grandparents, nannies, babysitters, or anyone who drives your child about how to do so while following best-practice car seat safety.
Agree upon a consistent plan and schedule.
To make the carpooling situation as streamlined and hassle-free as possible, set up a consistent plan and schedule. What time will each child get picked up? When will they arrive at school? What is the seating arrangement? Are parents walking their kids out and fastening them into their seats themselves? Where do backpacks go?
Your group needs to consider all the details and work out any logistical issues before the carpool gets started. The last thing you want is a frazzled driver or worried parent while everyone tries to figure out how to do this thing on the fly. Plan it out!
Make sure all the kids understand the process.
Many of your children probably haven’t had to share a ride with someone else too many times before this. If they did, it was likely family or a one-off with a close friend. So, don’t expect them to know the etiquette and process.
Do a couple of practice runs of the whole process, so your child knows exactly what to expect. This way, you’ll save the driver the hassle of re-explaining it and you’ll make sure the carpool stays on schedule!
Confirm all vehicles are safe and maintained.
Discuss with your fellow carpoolers the expectations of the rideshare vehicle. Cars should be kept clean and clutter should be kept to a minimum. Projectiles are a big danger in car accidents, so you want to keep the car as clear as possible.
Additionally, each car should have a weather-appropriate car emergency kit. It might even be a nice gesture to make these for each person in the carpool! Finally, establish when a car is no longer suitable to drive. What if the AC or heating is out? Check engine light flashing? It’s good to set the expectations from the start.
Consider the children’s age.
How many kids should be in the carpool? Just because there are seats available doesn’t mean there needs to be passengers to fill them. Toddlers are a lot to handle, and expecting a driver to manage a car full of 2-4-year-olds is a big ask. They could easily get distracted and frustrated by all the chaos, which could compromise the children’s safety. Start small and build as you all get comfortable.
Ask yourself if your child is ready.
What about your child specifically? Are they ready to carpool? Not every child is ready for such a big responsibility. The carpool may require your child to have some level of independence, like walking themselves to and from their classroom or buckling themselves into their car seat high back booster.
Plus, your kid will be expected to be on their best behavior. Is your child ready for that? If not, that’s okay. You don’t need to be ashamed if your child isn’t developmentally ready for ride-matching. Wait a bit and see where your child is next year.
Use a group chat.
Staying in contact with everyone and having their cell phone numbers in the carpool is super important for safety and organization. On the chat, you can send out weekly schedules and communicate any new information. There, you can also organize substitutes if someone can’t fulfill their obligation.
Set rules and expectations for parents.
What are the expectations for each parent with driving responsibilities? What one parent may think is a major no-go might be no big deal to another guardian. So, before the carpool begins, set the standards for every parent.
What kind of music will be played in the car? Is the parent allowed to perform quick drive-through errands during the carpool? What’s the expectation of punctuality? How do you handle substitutes? Spell it all out before the first pick-up.
Set rules and expectations for kids.
The kids need rules too, of course! We recommend having a seating arrangement to keep conflicts to a minimum. Additionally, toys and eating should be avoided during the car ride. Toys can easily be forgotten or become a projectile risk. And, eating is a choking hazard.
Beyond that, really specify what kind of behavior you expect in the cars. Make it the same between all carpoolers too, to avoid confusion. Remind the children to be kind, keep the noise level down, and keep their hands to themselves.
Use these ten tips to make your carpool a success!
Carpooling is meant to reduce stress and give you more time, and it can only do that with proper planning and execution! Be a leader among the carpool team, and help establish the logistics. Beyond convenience, all kids and passengers must be safe. Starting with the child safety restraint systems, which must be installed and buckled correctly to ensure maximum safety.
In addition to a car seat course, we recommend every parent check out our blog. We’ve got all the information you need to keep every child safe in their seat, and it’s a great resource for anyone who frequently hosts child passengers. See you in the HOV lane!