Child Car Seat Guidelines To Keep Your Little Ones Safe

When you are planning your budget for the arrival of your new baby, one of the most important items to include, apart from the pram or pushchair, is the safest and most secure child car seat you can afford.

Using a child car seat is a legal requirement in the UK so make sure you learn the rules surrounding them to ensure you don’t get pulled over and fined.  (My US readers should check out the latest information regarding child car seat safety here).

The car accident statistics make grim reading. Each year around 25 children between 0-11 years are killed while travelling in cars with approximately 250 sustaining a serious injury and around 6,000 being slightly injured.

Even if you don’t have a car yourself, if you are planning to travel anywhere by car, the law says that children must use a child car seat until they are 12 years old or 135 centimetres tall, whichever comes first. (Source: UK Government)

As children grow, the type of child car seat they can use changes until, eventually, they progress to what is known as a child booster seat.

However, once children are over 12 or more than 135cm tall they must wear a seat belt.

In Ireland and in some European countries such as Germany and France, this height limit is higher at 150 cm.

It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that children under the age of 14 years are restrained correctly in accordance with the law.

When can a child travel without a child car seat?

The law says that “a child aged 3 or older can travel in a back seat without a child car seat and without a seat belt if the vehicle doesn’t have one”.

In most cases, though, this means that children under 3 must always be in a child car seat.

Exceptions to the rule

There are exceptions to these rules are different if:

  • the child is in a taxi or minicab
  • the child is in a minibus, coach or van
  • the child is on an unexpected journey, for example, an emergency
  • there’s no room for another car seat

In a taxi, for example, if the driver doesn’t provide the correct child car seat, children can travel without one – but only if they travel on a rear seat and they must wear an adult seat belt if they’re 3 or older.

Whilst children can travel without a child car seat or seat belt in a coach if they’re not available, they must travel in rear seats in a minibus if child car seats or adult seat belts aren’t fitted and seat belts must be used if they are available.

If your vehicle does not have room for a third child car seat in the back then your child must travel in the front seat with the correct child car seat.

Children aged 3 or older can sit in the back using an adult belt.

To be honest, I find these rules rather confusing and it would be great to see some sort of public awareness campaign relating to child car seat safety.  Unless parents go searching for these rules online, it is hard to see how they would discover them otherwise.

Buying a child car seat

For the first time parent, buying a child car seat can be quite daunting.  Not only are there loads of brands to choose from, but the car seats are classified in groups:-

  • Group 0 – weight up to 10kg (22lbs)  – birth to 11 months for boys, and 14 months for girls.
  • Group 0+ – weight up to 13kg (29lbs) – birth to around 12 months to 15 months.
  • Group 1 – weight 9-18kg (20 – 40lbs) – Nine months to around four and a half years.
  • Group 2 – weight 15 – 22kg (33lbs – 3 st 13lbs) – three years to seven years.
  • Group 3 – weight 22 – 36kg (3 st 7lbs – 5 st 9lbs) – six years to twelve years.

As you can see, to choose the right seat for your child, you have to consider their age and their weight.

Then there is the choice between rear-facing seats, where the baby obviously faces the back of the car seat and forward-facing seats for older children.

Safety experts say that rear-facing seats are safer than forward-facing seats for children under 4 years old and advise that young children should be kept in rear-facing seats for as long as possible. Despite this, generally, according to The British Medical Journal, many babies are switched from a rear-facing to a forward-facing seat at 9 kg or around 8 to 9 months.

There is a wealth of other safety factors and design features to consider, for example, recline positions, the ease of adjusting the straps on the safety harness, compatibility with adult seat belts, washable cushions and a booster cushion for newborns who may be too tiny for even the starter car seat.

There are also loads of accessories to go with your car seat, from waterproof covers to toys you can attach to keep your little one occupied when on the road.

You can also buy pram systems where the child car seat can be attached to the pram frame so that you can lift baby straight of the car and onto the pram wheels without having to transfer them over from the car seat to the pram – no fun in the pouring rain and a gale I can tell you!

There is so much to consider that your best bet is to find a child car seat retailer who offers the widest choice and helps you compare the different makes and models at a glance. There are plenty of online retailers who will help you do this, such as Online4baby.com. and, during the current COVID-19 pandemic buying a child car seat online may be your only option.

We bought all our children’s car seats from Mothercare who have sadly gone into administration but their staff were able to demonstrate how to fit car seats in our vehicle for us – which was worth its weight in gold for a nervous first-time mum.

Whatever you choose, be sure that you are buying the best child car seat you can afford for your children and make sure you keep up with the latest Government rules and regulations.

If you in the UK, you are only allowed to use an EU approved car seat. Car seats approved outside of the EU (for example in the US), cannot be used in the UK and US-approved seats cannot be used in Europe. Whether BREXIT will affect this ruling remains to be seen.

And don’t be afraid to ask for advice. The best child car seat retailers won’t hesitate to answer all your questions – and don’t worry, you’re sure to have quite a few. I know we did!

Is it safe to use secondhand child car seats?

The Royal Society For The Prevention Of Accidents (RoSPA) advises that you do NOT buy a secondhand child seat as you cannot be sure of its history.

The child seat may have been involved in an accident and the damage may not be visible. The instructions might have been lost, meaning that you can’t be sure you are fitting and using it correctly.

Second-hand seats are also likely to be older, to have suffered more wear and tear and may not be designed to current safety standards.

If you must use a second-hand seat, only accept one from a family member or friend and then only if you are absolutely certain that you know its history, it’s not too old and you have the original instructions.

Wherever possible, buy a new child car seat for your child.

Tips For Travelling By Car Safely This Summer

Now that the summer holidays are approaching and many of us are about to hit the UK roads and motorways, it’s worth thinking about how we can keep ourselves, and our children, safe whilst we drive.  Travelling by car safely this summer is easier if you follow these tips.

Photo by Ben Shanks on Unsplash

Travelling by car safely this summer

Make sure your vehicle is legally roadworthy

We all know that our cars must have a current MOT and be adequately insured.  Even though we no longer need to display a tax disc, the police are able to track untaxed vehicles on the road.

Top up your fluids

Fuel, oil and water levels need to be topped up before we set off and our tyres checked and inflated to the correct pressure. It’s best to top your fuel up before you hit the motorway to avoid any price hikes on fuel which frequently seem to hit the unorganised driver.

Carry a safety kit

It is a good idea to carry a well-stocked first aid kit in the boot, as well as some bottled water and some (non-meltable) snacks.

Check your breakdown cover is valid

Is your breakdown cover up to date and do you have the relevant contact numbers already entered in your phone in case you get stranded on the M25?

Secure your little ones

Travelling with little ones means we need to make sure we are up to speed with the rules and regulations about child car seats and ensure everyone is wearing their seat-belt.

Prepare for car sickness

If your kids suffer from car sickness, it’s also worth taking a bowl, cloths and some soapy water, plus a change (or two!) of clothes for them.  You can bet that the day you don’t have these things is the day you’ll need them.

Charge your SatNav or Phone

Before you go, check your SatNav is in good working order and is charged.  We recently found that ours wouldn’t charge in-car and the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry cut out at a critical moment going around a roundabout.  Taking a good old-fashioned OS Map is a good back-up.

Stick to the speed limit

Make sure that you drive within the National Speed Limit for the road you are on – not only with this keep your licence point free but it will help you keep your petrol consumption down.

Don’t drink and drive – and watch your meds

If you have had a lot to drink the night before, remember that you may still be over the limit the next morning.  Some prescription medications may also leave you drowsy and nowhere near as alert as you need to be.

Take a break to deal with tiredness

Tiredness kills so make sure that you have regular, scheduled breaks, particularly when travelling with little ones, for toilet breaks, food and, in my case, coffee!  You might want to pack sandwiches though because the cost of feeding a family at the UK motorway service stations is often high.

Keep your little ones amused

It’s also useful to carry a picnic rug or blanket to sit on, or for the kids to snooze under.

You’ll want to take a selection of CDs for the kids.  Some kids are able to play on iPads and read in the back of the car but we’ve found this increases the risk of travel sickness.  Luckily we’ve finally outgrown the CBeebies classics so we don’t sail down to Devon to the dulcet tones of Mr Tumble any more.

Nervous driver?  Learn to deal with your nerves

If you find driving a bit of a nerve-wracking experience, Kwik-fit has an excellent guide entitled “Keep Calm And Drive On” to help you feel more confident on the road.

Chris Gilbert, a former Metropolitan Police driving inspector who taught Princes William and Harry to drive advises us to “drive more consciously” so that we anticipate situations rather than react.

I don’t know about you but it can be tricky to drive consciously when you have two kids arguing in the back, the SatNav cuts out and the Husband is trying to give you conflicting directions.

But we should be as alert as we can to what is going on around us, rather than faffing about changing radio stations or trying to unearth the last Werther’s Original from the glove compartment because Ieuan hates mints.

Another excellent piece of advice is to make sure there is an adequate gap between you and the car in front.

The advice is that you should keep at least a two-second gap between yourself and the car in front. You can count it from a road sign as the car ahead passes it.

Don’t be a nuisance on the road

Tailgating is probably one of the biggest annoyances experienced by drivers and I have found that women driving their kids seem to attract more than their fair share of tailgaters for some reason.

Other regularly mentioned annoyances from other motorists include:-

– leaving rear fog lights on when there’s no fog and it’s just raining

– driving everywhere with their lights on full beam and dazzling approaching drivers at night

– drivers who don’t put their lights on when it’s dark and tipping down with rain

– drivers who abruptly change lanes at the last possible moment at motorway exits – sometimes leaving it too late and crossing the hatched area

– drivers who drive while using a hand-held mobile phone – incredibly this is still a frequent sight, as is drivers trying to text with one hand on the wheel.

Wherever you’re off this year, make travelling by car safely easier by following these tips.

Why Car Leasing is a Smart Short-Term Strategy for Young Families

It’s no secret that young families have plenty of bills to pay. They spend money on housing, utilities, food, mobile data and Netflix subscriptions, you name it. Also, if they don’t have a lot of money saved up but need a new set of wheels, that can put more financial pressure on them.

Car leasing may allow you to drive a better, safer car - man behind wheel of new car

So, what can you do if you’re just starting out? How can you afford to buy a car when you don’t have a lot of cash to pay for it upfront? The most affordable way for young families to get a car is either through financing or a car lease.

Nowadays, more and more people are passing up on car loans and leaning towards leasing a car. In fact, nearly a third of vehicle sales can be attributed to leasing. But before you get lured in by the low lease payments, know first if car leasing makes sense for you.

What are the downsides to leasing a car?

If you lease the car longer, your overall costs will become much higher. The number of kilometers you can use on your leased car is limited. And if you go over it, you may pay extra fees.

If you’re big on vehicle customization, then leasing a car is not for you because you have less freedom to do so. Moreover, leasing can be a bad idea because you don’t own the vehicle when your lease is up. And you’ll have nothing to show for all that money you spent.

When does a car lease make sense?

It all boils down to your financial situation. For young families who can’t afford to buy a house right away, they can rent an apartment for several years.

While owning is better than renting, it can be a better short-term option until you have enough money saved in several years.

Many young families are searching for a reliable and new car they can use for their everyday needs. So, leasing can help them achieve this for the time being until they reach a point where they can afford to own one.

Also, there are several instances where leasing can offer many benefits in the short-term. These reasons include:

Lower monthly payments

If you don’t have a huge monthly cash flow, leasing makes more sense since your monthly payments are significantly lower compared to paying in cash or taking out a car loan. If you buy a car outright, your money is tied to it, so you can’t spend much on other things.

More car for your cash

If you like to be on the cutting edge of technology or want to enjoy the latest features, you can get a new car, every three years or so, once your car lease is up. You can just return your car and trade up for a new set of wheels.

Lower taxes

Leasing has become a huge draw for many folks because of the tax relief they can get. Most of the time, the taxes you pay on a leased car a much lower compared to when choosing to purchase a new vehicle.

Less stress on maintenance

Keep your car in excellent shape can be costly. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to pay for repairs, car parts and such, you don’t have to worry about those things because, most of the time, your monthly payments include the maintenance and warranty of your vehicle.

Final thoughts

Whether you decide to buy, take out a loan, or choose to lease, it all comes down to your budget and financial situation. For many young families that are just starting to establish themselves, a car lease may be more beneficial for them in the short-term.

What are your thoughts about car leasing? Do you think it’s a good idea? Have you leased a car? How was your experience? Let me know in the comments.

Tips For Protecting Your Car Against The Approaching Winter Weather

Running and maintaining a car is a costly business these days and as the weather gets colder and the nights become darker, it makes sense to consider winter car maintenance and ways in which we can protect our cars from the elements.

winter car maintenance - jeep in a snowy wood

Insurers would prefer us to keep our cars nicely locked up in a garage of course, but with land space at a premium and many houses and apartments being built without garages, lots of us are forced to keep our cars on a driveway or parked on the road – hopefully near to our home!

Winter car maintenance tips

Here are some tips you may find useful to weatherproof your vehicle and increase its security during the winter months.

Consider a carport

If you don’t have a garage but you do have some space on your property, installing a carport from a specialist provider such as 123v will give you the advantage of off-road parking without the expense of building a garage – and the annoyance of having to fight for a parking space.

A carport is a covered structure which can either be free-standing or attached to a wall and has a canopy which offers protection for your vehicle from extreme weather conditions and can be tailored to fit around any driveway area. These can prevent rain, frost and snow from collecting on your vehicle and allow you to leave your home on time – without spending time digging your car out of the snow!

Keep your car extra clean

Make sure you regularly wash your vehicle to get rid of any salt or grit.  You’ll need to clean the underside of your car too.

Your lights will benefit from being kept sparkling too to ensure you can see and are seen on the road.

Keep your car waxed & sealed

You can protect your car against the elements by keeping it waxed and polished. Bad weather can make your car more susceptible to rust and oxidation. You can buy car waxes specially designed to protect your vehicle’s surface from road salt and snow, for example, Turtle Wax Ice Liquid or Paste Wax. They recommend that you concentrate on the lower parts of your car – behind the wheels, quarter panels, and front grille where ice, snow and salt have the greatest effect.

Check fluids

Make sure you check that your car’s fluid levels are accurate.  Don’t forget to replace or top up summer windshield wiper fluid with one suitable for winter that won’t freeze when the temperature drops.

Check your antifreeze and oil levels to prevent internal damage to your car.

It’s also a good idea to keep your gas tank at least half full to help just in case you get stranded somewhere miles from a petrol station!

Check wheels & tyres

If you’re going to doing a lot of driving, for example, you’re driving home for Christmas, you might want to invest in a set of winter tyres. These tyres, more commonly called cold weather tyres, are made from a softer material which means that they are soft enough to grip in temperatures below 7 degrees centigrade.  They also have different tread patterns which allow the tyre to bite into the snow better.

A car fitted with winter tyres should stop more quickly and be less prone to skidding in any weather conditions if the temperature drops below the 7 degrees mark.

Otherwise, check your current tyres for wear and tear and ensure that they are inflated to the correct pressure.  You’ll need to check this more frequently in winter as the cold will make your tyre pressure drop. You can also use a high-quality tyre dressing to provide a barrier to the elements.

If you live in a rural area you may want to keep a set of tyre chains in your boot.

Check your windscreen wipers

The time to replace these and check for wear and tear is before the bad weather sets in.  Make sure you have a good stock of de-icer and an ice scraper to hand – although I’m sure we’ve all used a credit card for this purpose when pushed.

Inspect your battery

You can guarantee that you’ll discover your battery is flat on the morning which it’s vital you get somewhere on time!  Check your battery for signs of corrosion and invest in a battery charger.

Make sure you’re properly prepared for winter journeys

It makes sense to go fully prepared.  As well as plenty of de-icer and your ice scraper, make sure you’ve got warning signs, snacks, water, blankets, torches and a shovel to dig yourself out!  Don’t forget to check out my suggestions if your little ones suffer from car sickness too!

It’s a good idea to check your breakdown cover is in place and that your policy will get you to where you want to go.  For example, some policies will only cover a home start – not much use if you’re stranded on the M25.

A bit of investment in some extra care and some winter car maintenance may help keep you safe and your car on the road for longer.

Buying a New Car May Be Your Best Option – If You’re Smart About It

If you are in the market for a car, one of the first questions you may have considered is whether to buy a brand-new vehicle or a used one. Although some money saving experts warn against buying a new car, you shouldn’t automatically rule out the possibility. But you do need to take several factors into consideration before making your decision. Doing so could save you a few thousand pounds and a world of aggravation.

red car

The advantages of buying a new car

Even ignoring the pleasure of owning something new, complete with that new car smell, there are some good reasons to opt for a new car over a used one. For one thing, you can order a new car that meets your specifications exactly, as opposed to accepting whatever features and accessories are present on a used car.

Some of those features can be very important, such as the use of state-of-the-art technology that allows new cars to give previously unheard-of kilometres per litre of petrol. While some examples of “state-of-the-art” have offered little other than bragging rights and potential failures, other examples have actually made the cars much safer, with improved handling and braking and better occupant survivability in the event of a crash.

The new car is also less likely to have problems, and the problems it does have will likely be taken care of under warranty or recall so you won’t be faced with a big bill. And since a new car has essentially been un-driven prior to purchase, the likelihood of it having been abused is virtually nil.

One additional advantage of buying new has nothing to do with the car itself but is as important to many drivers as any feature – greater flexibility in financing. The new car will cost significantly more than a similarly-equipped used example of the same make and model, but the purchase price can be spread out over several more years than can the cost of a used car. And there is always the factor of manufacturer or dealer incentives that can shave thousands of pounds off the sticker price.

As long as we’re on the subject of price, this would probably be a good time to touch on some of the things you’ll need to look for when shopping for a new car. You’ll want to have a pretty good idea as to what kind of car would best meet your needs. For example, if you have a large or growing family or frequently need to carry a cargo of any size, a two-seater sports model would not be a very wise choice. And whatever you buy, try to stick with a make and model that has a good history of reliability, and that retains its value reasonably well. These days security is also an issue so choose a model with a good locking system, particularly if your employer has yet to install any form of car park security.

Once you’ve made your mind up about what to buy, it is time to go shopping. Be certain to educate yourself, not only about the car itself but about the ways a dealer can get you to spend more than you really have to.

 

black car in traffic

Rule #1: Don’t succumb to the hard sell or up-sell

Car dealerships have gotten a pretty shaky reputation over the years, and while some of the criticisms have been unfair, the suspicion many customers hold did not form in a vacuum. By educating yourself and being prepared, you can still avoid car purchasing horror stories and come out on the winning end of a deal. The first and foremost challenge you will face is recognising and not falling for the hard sell or up-sell.

Quite simply, you can recognise a hard sell whenever a salesperson seems to be pressuring you to make a deal that you’ve not yet decided to make. Some, like the example in the above link, will take even a mildly positive response to a suggestion as a commitment to buy. Thankfully, instances such as this are pretty rare.

More common is the salesperson who tries to convince you that not making a deal immediately will either make it unavailable or much more expensive in the future. While there are some times, such as shortly before new models come out or near the end of a sales promotion, when you can get better deals than you normally could, the need to do anything immediately should be understood as being nothing but a sales tactic and not taken too seriously.

Unlike the hard sell, the upsell is a pretty standard sales technique that is used by most dealerships, and it goes something like this:

Customer: “I’m looking for a midsize sedan with an efficient engine, automatic transmission, and air conditioning only.”

Salesperson: “I understand what you’re looking for, but once you get accustomed to the satellite radio, backup camera, Wifi, and undercoating, you’ll wonder how you ever did without them. And we can give you the entire package for…”

Despite the salesperson’s claims, the extras you didn’t want will cost you, and there is no guarantee that they will ever be anything more than conversation pieces, Avoid the push, and save your money. And to keep on saving, do your homework on financing your new car.

Smart financing can save you a lot of money

Once you’ve decided to buy a new car, and before you even go to the dealership, take some time and find the best financing options. There are almost as many financing decisions to make as there are regarding the make and model that will best serve you, and neglecting to educate yourself on those options can end up making your new car significantly more expensive.

One of the first questions many people ponder is whether to purchase or lease the car. If your primary concerns are the initial outlay and the size of the monthly payment, leasing can be pretty attractive, since both the deposit and the monthly payments are likely to be significantly lower. And that is fine if you want to replace the car with a new one in a few years, and don’t mind being on a constant payment plan. But if your main concern is minimising the total cost of transportation, taking out a loan and purchasing the car is much less costly in the long run.

white car

If you are purchasing, you might be tempted to arrange financing at the same dealership where you’re buying your car, especially if they are offering discounts on the sale price or cash-back incentives. Keep in mind, however, that many dealerships make more profit off their financing than they do on the cars they sell, and they don’t make all that profit by giving you the best deal.

To get a better deal on financing, spend a little time researching the different financing options available to you from more than one lender, even if you’ve been a loyal customer at your bank for many years. Different lenders offer different terms, loan sizes, and incentives, because even in a time of tight credit, they are as competitive in their market as the car dealers are in theirs. Compare the terms and costs of your desired loan from multiple lenders, and apply for the one that is right for you.

Not every car buyer needs a brand spanking new car. But if you have decided that a new car is the best choice for you, take care in shopping not only for the right car but also for the best financing option. You will be far less likely to suffer buyer’s remorse, and much more likely to enjoy your purchase long after that heady new-car smell has worn off.

Affordable Stylish Family Cars – Are These In Your Top 4?

When it comes to a runaround for the family, practicality is key but you also want something that’s stylish and affordable.

If you’re looking for a new family car this year, then take a look at the list below and discover your next favourite motor:

Stylish family cars

Promotional feature

Nissan Qashqai – for big families

This hatchback is a popular choice for those looking for a vehicle that offers a little luxury, a lot of legroom and plenty of storage space. Classed as a small SUV, you know that this car is a roomy ride and it even won the What Car? award for Best Small SUV in 2016. It’s great for urban driving, featuring a driving assist display that should direct you to that new dance club or football pitch at the weekend for the kids easily.

It also features a flashy self-parking feature, meaning you can forget about trying to focus while the kids squabble in the back as the Qashqai parks itself with ease.

 

 

Nissa Qashqai car

 

The RRP for this car is around £18,000, so relatively pricey, but there are some great leasing deals available out there, so you can rent monthly and still enjoy a fantastic new family vehicle without the huge initial payout.

Vauxhall Astra – for style and comfort

For a good looking ride around town that’s also great for those drivers looking for slightly better fuel economy, check out the Astra. However, the turbo model is ideal for those who take longer drives while still maintaining excellent fuel economy – 65.7mpg and lower CO2 emissions which means no road tax.

The boot offers 370 litres of space, a reasonable size but slightly smaller than the popular Volkswagen Golf, however still ideal for packing in the kids’ footy kits for the weekend or suitcases for a family holiday. This car also features a self-parking feature, making it a great vehicle for those families living in the city.

Vauxhall Astra

The RRP for this car is around £15,000, but again well-priced leasing deals are available.

Hyundai i30 hatchback – for long road trips

This comfortable family vehicle is modest when it comes to features but still stylish and ideal for the family who simply needs something to get around town. Boot space is its most redeeming feature, with 395 litres to enjoy and if the back seats are folded down you enjoy a whopping 1,301 litres of space. Driving and handling is reasonably good, with soft suspension that ensures a comfortable ride.

Hyundai i30 hatchback car

 

Suggested RRP is around £15,000 for a 1.4 litre engine – buying straight from Hyundai may see you pay up to £17,000. Opt for a finance deal and pay this price monthly, to break down the costs and to get your hands on a stylish vehicle the whole family can enjoy – whether you lease or opt for hire purchase.

Renault Megane hatchback – for the uber stylish

Renault didn’t hire Thierry Henry for their car commercials for nothing! This latest model is sleek, stylish and a little on the sporty side. Available in 1.2-litre engines to 1.6, it’s great for busy families looking for a swish car for weekend runarounds.

The interior feels luxurious, so perhaps this is a model preferable for those with older kids who can appreciate it, but Mum and Dad can enjoy a sat-nav system featuring TomTom technology as well as an impressive cabin with a touchscreen dashboard.

When it comes to fuel, it’s pretty efficient with an offering of 76.4mpg and no road tax to pay if the vehicle is registered before April 2017.

 

Renault Megane Car

Expect to find this car with an RRP of £17,250 for the basic model and smallest engine, a good price for an efficient and stylish car for the family that should last.

As you can see, there are plenty of stylish family cars to choose from.

Safe Journey – Essential Tips For Family Car Safety

Most people these days have a car if their finances allow and it must be extremely difficult to cope with a young family if you don’t. But, as our cars are so important for a smooth-running family routine, it’s important to ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy, and your driving is up to scratch.

There are lots of things you can do to keep your family safe while driving. Read on to discover what they are.


Entertainment

It can be very distracting when you are trying to drive if your little ones are screaming or asking you lots of questions. That it why it’s essential to keep them entertained, especially on long journeys.

There are quite a few ways you can do this, and some of it will depend on your views on entertainment, and some of it will be related to what your kids enjoy.

The first idea is an in-car DVD player. This works by hanging two mini-screens over the back of the front two seats. Then the kids listen to the audio through headphones so they are quiet and happy, while you take care of the driving.

If you are not too keen on just plugging your child into a media system, then you can provide them with colouring books and reading materials instead. Just make sure that reading doesn’t make them car sick!

Car Seats

One of the most essential items for child safety in vehicles is a car seat – and these are of course a legal requirement.

These not only help them to be boosted up so that they can see out of the window, but they perform an essential safety function as well.

Car seats allow your kids to sit in the best possible position to preserve their safety if there is any kind of accident. There are new EU rules on the car seat that have come out this year, so make sure you are up to date with them, by reading the information here.

Child Locks

Child locks are a fantastic way of ensuring your little ones’ safety in the car. When you activate them, it makes sure that your children can’t open the door from their side.

This works well if they are still very small and don’t understand when it’s safe to have an open door. It also stops any accidental door opening that could cause a safety problem.

Car Maintenance

Something that is imperative in car safety is making sure that your vehicle is well maintained. Having a valid MOT certificate is a legal requirement and you’ll also need one of these to take out car insurance. Cars are complex machines these days so it’s worth getting your car regularly checked and tuned up to avoid a hefty repair bill when your MOT inspection comes around.

Things like brake pads, oil and water levels need to be monitored as they can affect the safety of the car’s handling. It is important you find a mechanic who is a specialist in the make and model of car that you have to help you maintain your vehicle. There are even search sites set up to help you find a specialist mechanic like whocanfixmycar.com.

Rules

It’s also a good idea to have rules for behaviour when the kids are in the car. They need to be reminded that they shouldn’t poke their head through the gap in the front seats or try to take their seat belt off while the car is moving.

Sticking to the rules will keep them safe and ensure your attention isn’t distracted from the road and other drivers.

74% Motorists Fear Being Ripped off by Garages – Can You Trust Yours?

We’ve been pretty lucky with our cars so far.  The Husband has an 8 year old Beemer and I have my beloved and equally old Skoda Roomster.

In the absence of much mechanical knowledge and having an inherent distrust of garages, we tend to stick to where we know (i.e. the local dealerships).  Whilst the service is reliable, the price is reliably higher than some of the smaller independent garages.

But how do you know who to trust.  We’ve all heard the horror stories about parts not being replaced, or replaced with second-hand bits.  Then there are the tales of oil not changed or topped up, brakes not checked and unnecessary repairs undertaken to make a quick buck.

Let’s be honest – when the car is in for its service or MOT, everyone dreads that phone call from the mechanic where they start listing everything that needs to be fixed.

How do you know if they are telling the truth?

74% of respondents to a survey of 1,000 car owners, by BookMyGarage.com, an online booking directory of UK garages, stated that either hidden costs or being oversold were their main worries when using a garage.

Depending on where we live, mind you, we seem to be more or less relaxed about being ripped off

The survey found that those in the North East feared being oversold the most, with 74% of respondents stating this as a concern. Northern Irish respondents fretted the least about being oversold, with just 22% stating this as a worry.

People living in North West appear to be the most worried most about hidden costs, with 43% of those surveyed indicating that this was an issue for them. However, only 22% of Welsh respondents said that the chance of garages hitting them with hidden costs was a major concern.

I am not one of the 22%!

As Karen Rotberg, director of BookMyGarage.com, says: “Our survey shows that garages have a long way still to go to build trust with their customers. As cars become more complicated, due to new technologies, many motorists don’t always know what maintenance their cars need and feel that mechanics take advantage of this lack of knowledge.”

“This is why we launched BookMyGarage.com. By being able to compare prices of local garages and see genuine customer reviews, garages and customers can start to trust each other again.”

What customers want from their garages?

• 53% of the UK population uses a preferred garage because they trust them to resolve the issue or because they have used the same garage for years

• Only 3% of the UK population selects its garage because it is a well-known brand

• Only 9% fear poor customer service when booking a garage, which suggests that financial issues, rather than customer care concerns, are at the front of customers’ minds

• 51% of respondents book a car service by phone with 31% doing so in person. Only 18% book a car service online

• Reputation is the key deciding factor when choosing a new garage, according to 54% of the UK sample.

BookMyGarage.com is a nifty website which gives you a list of garages according to your postcode, together with the services they offer.

Just by popping in my postcode I’m told there are 66 garages near me and the date of my MOT renewal. There’s a map of their location and I can compare three garages side by side. I can then book online and there is a contact number which allows me to talk to an expert mechanic.

Some of the garages already have customer reviews available to read which is just what you want to have to hand.

Certainly worth a look if you have the dreaded MOT or service approaching.

Ways To Make Your Car Both Stylish And Functional

Although you might not realise it, there are some easy ways to keep your car both stylish and functional – two of the aspects which are important to drivers.  You may find the four tips below helpful.


Fight the Rust 

Rust is a big problem on the outside of your car. If you don’t have a garage where you can store your car and you have had the same car for a while, rust will start to appear. There are a number of ways that you can fight rust, and I’ve already mentioned one of them. You should definitely find some form of shelter from the elements for your car if that’s at all possible. It doesn’t have to be a garage; it could simply be a car canopy, for example. You also need to keep the body of the car waxed and clean. Rust doesn’t look good and it can spread and cause serious problems when it’s ignored. So, don’t let it damage your car.

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Image Source

Keep the Interiors Clean 

The condition of the inside of the car is equally important, particularly if you have a family. If you’re not careful, the inside of your car can become pretty messy and cluttered. This is what frequently happens when you have kids spending a lot of time in them. Food packaging and stains can mount up and cause you all kinds of problems. This certainly doesn’t help the car to look stylish, and it can make it pretty uncomfortable as well. So, you need to make sure that you hoover the interiors and use the right cleaning products to lift those troublesome stains.

Add Sporty Touches 

Even the most practical family car can be improved and made more stylish by adding some sporty touches. There’s no excuse for having a dull car these days when we have so many interesting ways to make your car sporty. You could simply upgrade your tyres and upgrade the trims. This has an instant impact on how your car looks. Michelin pilot sport 3 tyres will also make the car drive better on the road too. So, it’s a win-win situation for you as a driver. You can also do things like improving the suspension or adding a new exhaust to the back of the car.

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Photo source

Understand All the Space You Have 

With modern cars, there are so many small storage spaces that you can take advantage of. Most people don’t even fully understand how much storage space they have at their disposal. Small cars are actually the best for this. They have lots of small, hidden storage compartments that are there to be discovered by you. For example, many super-minis have back seats that can fold back or lift up to reveal some extra storage space that you might not have known was ever there. You should check your owner’s manual and see exactly where all that storage space is. You just might be surprised by what you find out.

Child Backless Booster Car Seats – New Rules From December 2016

Changes to the rules relating to the use of backless booster seats for children are coming into force at the end of 2016.

UK law currently states that children must use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135 cm (4 ft 5 in) tall, whichever comes sooner.

Little boy about to climb into a play wagon - child backless booster car seats new rules 2016 - motherdistracted.co.uk

In Ireland and in some European countries such as Germany and France, this height limit is higher at 150 cm (4 ft 11 in).

Children under three must be in a child car seat.

If you don’t have room for a third child seat in the back of your car, children aged three or under can use the front seat but they must be in a child car seat.

You can’t take children under three on an unexpected journey in a vehicle without a seat belt or the correct child car seat.

The only exception to this rule is if it’s in a licensed taxi or minicab and the rear seats are separated from the driver by a fixed partition and the child travels on the rear seats.

If you ignore the law you are liable to a fine of £500.

At present, children weighing as little as 15 kg (2 stone 5 lbs) can travel in backless booster seats

Under the new rules, backless booster seats must only be used for children taller than 125 cm (4 ft 1 in) and weighing more than 22 kg (3 stone 6 lbs).

Child Backless Booster Car Seat - new rules from Dec 2016 - motherdistracted.co.uk
The rules about using these are changing

Many child car seat experts feel that this type of seat is unsafe for young children and you can easily see why.

The only security these seats offer is via the adult seat belt and there is no protection for your child if you are involved in a crash sideways on.

You can easily pull a booster seat back and forward even when your child is sitting on it and there is a risk of them sliding forward on the seat.

The problem is that backless booster seats (or booster cushions) can be bought relatively cheaply, costing anywhere from £10 – £30.

If you have more than one car or share the responsibility for driving your children about with other family members (such as grandparents), the costs of multiple car seats can really stack up and it is easy to see why booster cushions are relied on.

They can be thrown in the boot or swopped from one car to another in a matter of minutes.

Car safety experts, however, would prefer us to use high-backed booster seats because they guide the adult seat belt across the child’s body properly and in crash tests carried out by Which?, they were found to offer much more protection in a side-impact crash than a backless booster seat.

These changes to the child car seat regulations are expected to come into effect in December 2016 but will only apply to new products on the market.

If you plan to buy a booster seat next year, you will have to check the height/weight limit on the seat you buy to ensure that it complies with the new rules.

You can still use the booster seats you have already bought but, given the warnings by safety experts, it is worth reviewing the child seats you use to check your family travel is as safe as possible – even if that means investing in new, and potentially safer, child car seats.

Driving Home For Christmas? Do It Safely.

Driving home for Christmas was a special Christmas tradition when I was growing up. We’d drive, each Christmas to Plymouth, to the homes of my grandparents and the journey used to be magical.

Car driving on a deserted road through a forest - driving home for Christmas

When you’re young, the heady feeling of festive anticipation is so potent that it seems to colour ever activity, no matter how mundane, with glitter and sparkle.

The journey was made, through the years (in the late 60’s through to the 80’s) in a Mini Cooper, a Renault 4, a Renault 5 and a Ford Fiesta.  None of these had much boot space and my sister and I would be surrounded by blankets, presents and rationed toys desperately fighting off deep vein thrombosis and cramp in our nether regions.  If we were especially lucky, my sister would avoid car sickness.

To keep us quiet, dad would stock up on Wrigley’s chewing gum (usually Double Mint – I’m not sure about Juicy Fruit to this day) and the discarded silver foil wrapped blobs would eventually seize the door panel ashtrays.  Yes, in those days, some family cars also doubled as mobile ashtrays.

My mother had little room for her feet because she had a large bag full of foil-wrapped sandwiches and thermoses of water and milk.  Not for us the mad excesses of service station food. No, staring out a steam and rain covered windscreen trying not to get ready salted crisps on the seat was more our family’s style.

My sister and I loved spotting the fairy lights festooning houses, pubs and lorry cabs as we drove. Each junction had a significance and the highlight was descending the sloping dual carriageway on to the very scary Marsh Mills roundabout in Plymouth and from there across to Cattedown and my grandfather, Harry’s house.

Widowed very early on, Grandad nevertheless always made sure that there was a Christmas tree lit up in the always cold ‘front room’ reserved for visitors and special occasions.  He’d buy in a jumbo tin of Quality Street, enough peanuts to pebble-dash a small semi, a Christmas cake and a Christmas Log covered in thick chocolate.

My father would pull up, decant us all and then spend a good ten minutes driving back and forth to get the car properly lined up against the kerb.  I think it’s a Virgo thing.  Or a dad thing.

John Brooks, Linda Hobbis' dad - driving home for Christmas
My Lovely Dad

In those days, of course, even joining the M4 from Cardiff was a novelty and there was a fraction of the traffic that there is today.  If you were unfortunate enough to break down though, you were in for a long wait.

Before we set off, my father would go through the ritual of checking the tyres and their pressure, topping up the oil and water and wiping over the lights – something he taught both my sister and me to do so that our cars were as safe as possible to drive.  I often wonder how many of us take sensible precautions with our cars before we set off.

Driving home for Christmas – car safety tips

Do you do any or all of the following?

Make sure your lights are working

Get someone to stand behind the car and check the break and backlights for you.

Check your oil, water and screenwash

Don’t just rely on the top-ups you get when you have the car serviced!

Check your tyres

Are your tyres roadworthy and inflated to the correct pressure?

If you’re not sure which ones you need, specialist tyre supplier Point-S has a handy online guide which tells you the tyres you need when you input the registration number of your vehicle.

You also might want to consider purchasing a set of winter tyres if the weather is particularly treacherous.

Check your wipers

Replace blades that aren’t working.  Having good visibility on the motorway is crucial, especially in the torrential rain.

Check your fuel levels

Don’t forget the not all garages will be open for Christmas and the last thing you want to do is run out of petrol miles from the nearest station.

Be ready for ice

Make sure you have enough de-icer and an ice scraper.  It’s a good idea to carry water, blankets, torches and warm clothes too.  You might also want to have some snacks to hand – although we have never managed to make a packet of ‘travel sweets’ last much further than the Severn Bridge.

I hope that if you are driving home for Christmas that you’ll make sure your journey is safe and enjoyable by taking the important precautions listed.

I’d also make sure your breakdown cover is renewed and you have the breakdown telephone number in your mobile.

Then, all you’ll need is a suitable Christmas soundtrack to sing along to while you drive.

Something about driving home for Christmas possibly …….

You can find more tips for getting your car ready for the winter weather here.

When can a child travel in the front of a car?

We all fell in love with this sporty BMW at our recent visit to the BMW pop-up shop which appeared in St. David’s shopping centre in Cardiff.  Leaving aside the fact that we’d probably have to sell the kids to get one, the knotty issue of kids’ safety and when a child can travel in the front of a car reared its head again.

Every time we measure the kids, we check to see how close they are to 135 cm (approx 4 ft 6″) because I have it in my head that once they reach this height, they are allowed to travel in the front seat and no longer need a booster seat.

child can travel in the front of a car - BMW in a recent popup in Cardiff

What are my chances of getting one of these for Mothers’ Day?

I am aware, of course, that it is considered safer for children to travel in the back of the car, but there are occasional instances when the ability to put Caitlin or Ieuan in the front seat would be helpful, for example when travel sickness rears its ugly head.

There seems to be a great deal of confusion on this topic. For example, if you have a two-seater vehicle, you obviously have no choice but to put your child in the front, using the appropriate and correctly fitted car seat and with the airbag switched OFF if the car seat is rear facing.

Child can travel in the front of a car - Ieuan in the BMW convertible.

Ieuan dreaming of getting his hands on the keys

This afternoon we measured the children again.  Caitlin is 124 cm and Ieuan 119 cm and, after a repeat of the “when will I be tall enough to sit in the front” conversation, I thought it time to check out what the law actually says.

And here it is, according to The Royal Society For The Prevention Of Accidents produced with the support of the Department of Transport.

All children travelling in the front or rear seat of any car, van or goods vehicle must use the correct child car seat until they are either 135 cm in height or 12 years old (whichever is reached first).

After this, they must use an adult seat belt.  There are very few exceptions.

It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that children under the age of 14 years are restrained correctly in accordance with the law.

The law is different for buses, coaches and minibuses with seat belts fitted.

To my mind, this raises more questions than it answers.  It certainly does not draw any distinction between front and rear seat travel.

Details of the most appropriate child car seat are available on the Childcarseats.org.uk website but these recommendations go according to weight and not height.

In other words, the car seat you choose must be appropriate for your child’s weight up to the age of 12 or the height of 135 cm, whichever is reached first.

The Government’s website is not much clearer at www.gov.uk/child-car-seats-the-rules/using-a-child-car-seat-or-booster-seat.

“Children must normally use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135 cm tall”.

But even this does not really give a definitive answer to the front / rear seat question.

Child safety in vehicles is such an important issue that I think it’s time we were given a much clearer set of rules appropriate for different classes of private vehicles.  There seem to be so many contradictions.

Caitlin and Ieuan travel in the back of our car on booster seats and that until they reach the magic height of 135 cm or the age of 12 is where they’ll be staying. But my understanding is that if I had to put them in the front, I could do so as long as they are placed on their booster seats.

If you are aware of any other regulations that may clarify when a child can travel in the front of a car, please let me know!  After all, if you’re going to invest in a convertible for the approaching warmer months, you’ll want to travel in the car safely this summer – and all year round.