As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Australia’s Best New Car News, Reviews and Buying Advice

Preserving Sanity and Safety on Long Road Trips With Children

This winter, you might be taking a road trip to a ski resort or somewhere similar. Now, driving along mountain roads are really quite fun from the motorist’s point of view. You get to put all the special features (or most of them, anyway) through their paces – winding roads give you the chance to really appreciate the car’s handling and steering around corners, while uphill and downhill stretches allow you to play with the gears to make sure that you keep the motor purring over at just the right rev level to run efficiently and at peak power. However, winding roads aren’t quite such fun for the passengers, especially those under a certain age occupying the back seats.

Bored kids on a long road trip are probably a safety hazard. They say that cellphones and GPS navigation systems can be a distraction to the driver and lead to near-misses or worse. However, you can turn off radios, ignore phones and turn off the GPS navigation – and some modern cars can do this for you automatically if they detect by your driving style that you are facing a demanding situation. However, kids don’t have an off switch, and bored kids tend to come up with the following, all of which are likely to drive you half nuts. (Add your own pet hates if I haven’t listed it here. They are listed from most stressful to least stressful.)

  1. “I’m going to be sick!” (usually said just after passing a “No stopping for the next 1 km” sign)
  2. “He hit me!” “Did not!” “Did!” “You started it by looking at me funny!” “Well, you looked at me funny first!”
  3. “I need to go to the toilet!”
  4. “I’m hungry!”
  5. “This is the song that does not end…”

Many of the standard devices used to prevent this potential cause of accidents won’t work on winding roads, as books, hand-held computer games and the new seat-back DVDs can really only be used on straight roads; on winding roads, they cause nausea (see Irritating Speech #1). And if the road is out the back of nowhere, old favourites like Licence Plate Cricket/Bingo and Yellow Car can’t really be played. Squash Each Other Going Round Corners loses its novelty fairly quickly, especially for the person in the middle rear seat. However, the following can occupy small (and not-so-small) minds on long, winding roads as well as at other times:

  • CDs. Think beyond music, as there’s only so many times through that you can really listen intently to a music track before the mind starts to wander, and there’s only so many times that drivers or those over the age of ten can tolerate The Wiggles or The Fairies. Talking books tend to appeal to a wider age range, especially audio versions of classic books.
  • Family history. Every family has a collection of stories like When Uncle Jim Sold His Hair, The Go-Kart I Built When I Was Your Age, How Grandma Lived During The Depression etc. Long car journeys are the perfect time to bring them out and pass them on to another generation.
  • Pass-it-on stories. Someone starts up a story (e.g. “Once upon a time, there was a pirate called Bob who lived on a ship with a cockatoo named Billy”). After a few sentences, the story is passed on to the next player, who continues it as they see fit and passes it on again.
  • Verbal word games. There’s oodles out there and you don’t have to have a PhD in English Literature to play them.

Enjoy your winter road trips but, as always, keep safety uppermost and drive appropriately.