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Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity for people to spend time with their loved ones and, well, give thanks. But it’s also a time when many people are on the road, usually with the whole family in tow. Here are a few driving safety tips to keep in mind this long weekend.

Ensure your kids are secured

Most people know that they should put small children in car seats. But did you know that Ontario has specific height, weight, and age requirements for children who must use car seats and booster chairs? If you’re travelling with children this Thanksgiving long weekend, be sure to keep the following in mind:

  • Children under 20 pounds must use a rear-facing car seat
  • Children between 40 and 80 pounds must use a forward-facing or rear-facing car seat
  • Children between 40 and 80 pounds who are less than 4'9" and under the age of 8 must use a booster seat

Of course, it’s not enough to just identify the right seat. You’ve also got to use it properly. 

To install a rear-facing car seat, take the following steps as outlined by the Ministry of Transportation: 

  1. Place the car seat away from an active airbag
    Preferably, you should install the car seat in the back seat.
  2. Install the base at a 45-degree angle 
    The MTO recommends using a firm foam bar or towel to help you install the seat at this angle.
  3. Tighten and fasten the seatbelt strap through the base
    You can use your body weight to get it in place. Your car seat shouldn’t move more than 2.5 cm in any direction once the seat belt has been fastened in place.
  4. Check whether you need to use a locking clip
    Take a look at your vehicle’s owner manual to see if you must use one.
  5. Properly position the harness straps
    Ensure your harness straps are routed through the correct slots.

Got little ones who are a bit older? Check out the Ministry’s guides for installing forward-facing car seats and booster seats. 

Don’t forget entertainment for the kids

Turns out that one of the biggest causes of distracted driving is kids.

Now, we’re sure that comes as no surprise to anyone who has kids, but these stats from a study out of Australia may shock you:

  • Kids are 12 times more distracting to drivers than talking on a cell phone while driving
  • In the space of a 16-minute trip, the average parents looks away from the road for a total of 3 minutes and 22 seconds

Considering these numbers, you can imagine our concern when we think about all the parents toting their kids on five-hour long car rides to see grandma and grandpa. 

To keep your kids happy during the car ride:

  • Download children’s shows for offline viewing on Netflix (keeps them busy and keep your cellular data bill low)
  • Bring along a portable charger if you’ve got a long ride ahead of you
  • Pack some easy snacks if your kids get hungry on the highway

But if your kid is really really fussy – perhaps they need to use the bathroom or carrot sticks simply won’t cut it – pull over and grab a bite to eat. It’s also a great excuse for the driver to take a break. 

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Keep your pets secure

Your pets are part of the family, so it’s only natural that they’ll accompany your family on a trip out of town. Before you hit the road, be sure to protect your pets the way you do other members of your family. The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society recommend buying a harness that uses your car’s seat belt to keep your pet secure. You can also use a booster seat for smaller animals.

Also, did you know that improperly securing your pets can lead to legal troubles? Leaving your pet loose in the back of your truck could lead to an insecure load offence under the Highway Traffic Act. Likewise, driving with your pet on your lap can lead to a careless driving charge.

Take breaks if you’re planning a long haul

If you’ve got an extremely long drive ahead of you, be sure to take breaks. Even if you think you can go for an hour, better to be safe than sorry. If two parents are driving, take turns at the wheel, so another can get some shut-eye in the passenger seat.

Likewise, make sure you get enough sleep before hitting the road. According to one study, drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.

We know it’s tempting to wake up early to miss the rush hour traffic, but don’t do so at the expense of your sleep and safety.

Have a designated driver

Finally, make back-up plans if you’ll be drinking. Have a designated sober driver, or make arrangements to have a sleepover at a relative's place. Staying off the road after a few drinks will keep the roads safe for you, your family, and your fellow drivers.

Wishing you a safe and happy Thanksgiving,

Team Onlia

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