5 Ways to Keep Your Kids Safe When the Baby Sitter's Driving

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you're away at work this summer, and you've hired a baby sitter to watch the kids, sooner or later they're all going to get in the car and drive somewhere.

On the surface, that's fine.

After all, you don't want the kids in the house all day, and a trip to the community pool or a drive to the local ice cream parlor is a good time and keeps the young ones busy and happy.

But young drivers being young drivers, parents may well worry about the experience their sitter has behind the wheel and any bad habits they may bring to the driver's seat with them.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than among any other age group.

The CDC cites the following risk factors for teenage drivers — none of which will likely ease the mind of parents who hire baby sitters to watch their kids, and drive them around:

  • Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize hazardous situations.
  • Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and allow shorter headways (the distance from the front of one vehicle to the front of the next).
  • Compared with other age groups, teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use. In 2011, only 54% of high school students reported they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else.

Nobody is suggesting that baby sitters — usually teenage girls, whom the CDC says are more careful behind the wheel than teenage boys — are reckless and dangerous drivers.

It's just that they are kids, too, and don't have deep experience driving with younger children in the car.

Edmunds.com, the online car shopping site, comes to the rescue of concerned parents with a set of ground rules baby sitters should adhere to when behind the wheel.

"First and foremost, parents should check to make sure the caretaker has a valid driver's license and a solid driving record," says Carroll Lachnit, consumer advice editor with Edmunds. "Be on the lookout for reckless driving citations, cellphone tickets, excessive speeding and, of course, driving while intoxicated. And don't discount even smaller traffic violations. No red flag is too small when the safety of your children is at stake."

Edmunds also advises parents to take these additional steps when allowing baby sitters to drive their children around town:

  • Vet the sitter thoroughly: Preferably, you want to hire a sitter who has driven children before. Ask around among other parents for good references. As Edmunds says, "There's a peace of mind that comes with knowing other parents in your community have relied on the baby sitter to drive their children around."
  • Install child seats properly: Mom or dad should install child safety seats in a vehicle or at least check that they're safely installed.
  • Make sure the vehicle is dependable: Parents should always strive to have the sitter drive a family vehicle — one that's been thoroughly serviced and inspected by a trusted mechanic.
  • Leverage technology for safety: Parents can use smartphone and computer applications that track their vehicle's speed, location and performance. Parents can even install an app in their car that limits the driver's cellphone use, for example, allowing only the use of your number, the sitter's parents number and 911 while driving.

It's natural to be a bit anxious when a teenager is driving your kids around. But with some simple, common-sense steps, you can minimize any safety threats and allow your children to have a great time on the road with your baby sitter.

— By Brian O'Connell

Show Comments

Back to Top