Getting ready for a summer vacation?  Going on a long road trip to see family?  Dr. Mary McAteer adds her thoughts below on how to keep kids safe during road trips and make your vacation fun an safe.

How To Keep Kids Safe During Road Trips

Road trips may make for some of the best summer vacation memories. However, taking extra precautions when you have such precious cargo onboard is vital for a harm-free and happy adventure.  Follow this expert advice from Mary McAteer, MD, a pediatrician from Indiana University Health’s Riley Physicians, to help you and your family make it to your destination safe and sound.

Make sleep a priority.

Don’t wait until the last minute to pack the car and skimp on sleep the night before your big car trip because, if

you’re the driver, you may be putting everyone’s life at risk.  Studies show that sleep deprivation can slow your reaction time when driving as much as being intoxicated.  “Research finds that accident rates are also higher at certain times of the day, such as late afternoon and sundown,” says Dr. McAteer. “If you think about it, that’s when people naturally tend to get tired, and it adds up to making a bad decision. Keep that in mind if you have to travel during those times—such as if you have a fussy child who travels best during her nap or bedtime so she can sleep.  Make sure you take breaks to get ice water or grab an apple, which studies show may be better attention-boosters than drinking coffee.”

Double check your car seats.

The bad news: Car accidents are the leading cause of death for kids in the U.S. The good news: Many of these deaths can be prevented by having the proper car seats.  “That means rear-facing for babies up to at least two years old,” says Dr. McAteer. “You should also keep children in forward- facing car seats as long as possible despite what their friends are doing, because the five-point restraint system is the safest way for anyone to ride in a car.  Even Indy 500 drivers use five-point restraints for safety.”  Sometimes in stalling those car seats can seem way more complicated than it should be, but you can ensure that your little one’s is properly fitted by having a Child Passenger Safety Technician near you inspect it. Find one by visiting

Lock those power windows.

“Parents have to be super vigilant around cars because we live in them so much that we forget the little things, such as power window hazards,” says Dr. McAteer. “It is very common for kids to get injured with power windows.  Some cars automatically stop closing when obstructed, but that is not standard. Be sure to lock the windows and doors so kids can’t open them as you’re driving. And don’t ever leave your child unattended inside the vehicle—even just to quickly run inside.  They could do all kinds of things in the car that hurt them.”  Prevent backovers. Fifty kids are accidently backed over every week in the U.S.—and 70 percent of those accidents happen when a parent or close relative is behind the wheel. It may seem like common sense to know where your children are before you reverse, but it’s also all too easy to get distracted when you’ve got the whole clan in a new place. If you’re dropping off the family at a pit stop, make sure another adult is keeping a very close eye on your little ones so they don’t follow behind you or make a sudden run for it.  You can’t see something so small—the majority of backover victims are in the one-year old range.