1. Use a child restraint that fits your kid and your car.
Your child should ride in a rear-facing car seat from birth until age 2, a forward-facing seat with a harness until she can no longer fit in it, and a booster seat until she reaches 4’9”. Check your owner’s manual to make sure you’ve picked a spot in the back that can safely accommodate a car seat.
2. Ready, set, purge!
Items left loose in the back seat—water bottles, the diaper bag, garbage—could hit your kids hard in the event of an accident. Store them in a console or in the trunk.
3. Snack carefully.
The bumpy motion of a car ride can push too much food down a little throat when your attention is on the road instead of on your child. There should be no snacking in the car unless there’s an adult in the backseat.
4. Turn off your phone.
Even if you’re hands-free, talking on the phone is dangerous. It’s like talking on the phone and watching TV—you’re going to miss something on one end or the other. Plus, if your phone is off, you won’t be tempted to look at text messages—a deadly habit.
5. Organize your glove compartment.
Make sure it’s stocked with the essentials you’ll need in case of an accident: Proof of your car insurance, your car’s maintenance manuals, a flash light, and an emergency contact sheet. Toss clutter that could make the important stuff hard to find.