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Motoring Advice For Michelle

Michelle (not her real name) is a friend of mine who used to be the sort of gal who got about on a Vespa motor scooter when she was a townie but has settled down and married a farmer and gets about in his farm truck. However, that’s about to change, as she’s now pregnant – with twins. Now, you might just be able to get away with fitting one baby seat in the single-cab Toyota Hilux for a few years, but for two, you’re going to need to really re-think your transport options. So here’s some friendly advice for you and for everyone else who’s expecting multiples and is considering upsizing the family car.

For a start, don’t even go near a two-door vehicle. Getting two kids into the back seat safely is enough of a palaver with a four-door vehicle, but the job gets next to impossible when you’ve got to reach over from back to front. So you’re going to have to wait quite a few more years until you and your hubby can get that hot little Mazda MX-5. Save that as a reward for a job well done when your twins up sticks and leave home – hard to think of at this stage when they haven’t even been born yet, I know.

Secondly, you will have to say goodbye to those little city hatches you like the look, even if they have got four doors and they are very frugal. You are not going to be able to fit the shopping in the back of an old  Toyota Starlet as well as the double pushchair you will need. Sure, the tailgate on a hatchback does make things a lot easier when it comes to slinging stuff in the back but you can get these on larger station wagons and on MPVs with the rear seats folded down. Those twins of yours are going to be tiny when they’re born but they’re going to mushroom. They will get long legs and start kicking you in the back while you’re on the long drive into town. If the car’s too small, you will have the choice between being right up close to the dashboard or getting knees/feet in your kidneys. And they will collect friends who will also need transporting as a favour to a friend, or there’s going to be a time when you have Grandma to stay and you will all want to go in the same car.

However, I’m going to stick my neck out a little and go against some of the modern trends and I won’t say that a big SUV should be your automatic choice when you’ve got a family on the way. This is because there’ll be several years when the twins will be mobile but won’t be tall enough to see when you’re backing. I don’t want to upset you, Michelle, as I know how much you’ve wanted children, but SUVs and 4x4s are the main culprits when it comes to children being killed in their own homes. And when it comes to overall safety, most modern vehicles are good enough to keep a family safe. (By the way, airbags in the front are a good excuse for keeping both children in the back seat for quite a few years – they can actually cause injury to children when deployed. This will save you a few “It’s not fair! It’s my turn to go in the front! Why can’t I ride in the front seat!” wails, at least until they’re big enough to ride up the front.) However, because you do have a bit of rough stuff to go over with your farm, I won’t say that you should avoid the SUV altogether. You won’t be one of those “suburban tractor” people who never actually use the high ground clearance and all-wheel drive ability of their Porsche Cayenne or whatever they have (stop laughing; I know you’ve got a real tractor!).

Or you could go for something a bit lower to the ground (I know you’re driveway’s not that rough) and get an MPV along the lines of a Honda Odyssey. You will still have to be careful when backing but it will be easier to see that unexpected tricycle buzzing around the side of the house in a lower down car.

If you do plump for the SUV option, you are going to need to be hyper-vigilant when backing out. Either load both children in the car before the motor even goes on or have a safety step where both children have to stay while cars are going in and out of the driveway – this applies to Dad’s farm ute as well as the family car. You can even, if they get particularly fractious and uncooperative, leave them inside the house with the door shut for a minute while you get the car out. This honestly is safer. Even rear parking sensors and rear cameras have blind spots.