Babysitting: Driving Kids

Babysitting: Driving Kids

If you have your license and a family asks you to take their kids somewhere, your first thought is probably about safety. Driving with young kids in the car can be different from the driving you're used to.

Top Things to Know About Driving Kids

There are the rules of the road and then there are the rules to follow when driving kids. The three most important ones are:

  1. Get a parent's permission first. Only drive your babysitting charges if a parent has asked you to — and only if you feel comfortable doing so.
  2. Follow child safety seat laws. It's the law in every U.S. state that a child has to be in the right safety seat. It's up to the parents to buy and install car seats. But it's up to you to follow the law — you'll face a big fine if you don't. If parents can't provide you with age-appropriate seats for their children, don't drive their kids. Tell the parents you're concerned about the children's safety and you'd prefer not to take the risk.
  3. Never talk on the phone or text while driving kids. Using the phone while driving is doubly dangerous when you have the added responsibility of driving kids. Plus, you need all your senses to be on the alert for all the talking, texting, and otherwise distracted drivers out there!

    Any time you drive, you face a big ticket if you break your state's mobile use laws. But even if your state doesn't have hands-free driving laws yet, make it a practice never to talk or text while driving.

Know How to Use Car Seats

Car seats are the law because they offer the best protection for kids. Some seats, like booster seats for older kids, are easy to use. Others, like infant seats, can be more complicated.

Ask parents how they want to handle the issue of safety seats. In some cases, as with infant seats, it's best to leave a seat in the car once it's been installed. That means it's often easiest to drive a family's car instead of your own.

If you'll be driving kids on a regular basis and need to install seats in your own vehicle, ask a parent to show you exactly how. Or find a child seat installation clinic at your local hospital or fire department.

No matter what type of safety seat you use, it should always be installed in the back seat. Front airbags can seriously injure young kids, which is why kids shouldn't ride in the front.

Figuring out which seats are appropriate for different age groups is complicated even for parents. So it's best to get a parent to show you which seat to use for which child and how to buckle the kid in. There are some basic rules to follow, though:

Give Kids Their Own Rules

As the driver, you're in charge. Set rules for kids and stick to them. Here are a few you'll want to enforce:

Many parents today don't want teen babysitters to drive their kids around. And, after reading about what's involved in driving kids, that may sound like a big relief! Just as you need to get a parent's permission before you drive kids, you also get to make the call if you don't want to drive them.

Always tell parents if you don't feel comfortable doing anything that's asked of you. Plenty of teen drivers aren't ready to drive friends and family, let alone take responsibility for someone else's kids!

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: January 2015

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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Related Resources
OrganizationNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) NHTSA is the government agency responsible for ensuring and improving automobile and traffic safety.
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