Driving as a parent

Driving as a parent

Being a parent can change how you think about driving, whether you’ve just become responsible for transporting your new baby safely (and dealing with the distractions a baby can cause) or your child has begun to drive. Either way, you’ll know that you now have an extra responsibility to be safe on the road.

The law on child car seats last changed in 2006, so if you’re a new parent you must make sure you know what sort of restraint your child should use.

The rules are designed to keep babies and children as safe as possible given their age and height. In the past, many injuries were caused by children using adult seat belts: because the children were short, the seat belts were positioned in the wrong place. Booster seats help to reduce these injuries.

Check the rules on child seats on GOV.UK.

You’re likely to become even more aware of safety on the road when you’ve got a baby or child in the car, so now’s a good time to refresh your knowledge and make sure you can still remember all the important things you knew as a learner. You could take the mock theory test and the road signs quiz to get you started.

You could also take some extra training: see the Further training page in the learner driver section for more information.

Long car journeys with children can be difficult so it’s a good idea to do some planning to make them as easy as possible.

  • Plan your route to make sure you don’t get lost and build in breaks for meals, visits to the toilet and fidgeting.
  • Carry some drinks and snacks in the car.
  • Find some games to play – ideally ones that involve looking out of the window, to avoid travel sickness. You could try ‘I spy’, spotting games and using registration numbers to make silly sentences.

It’s difficult for children to understand that you need to concentrate on driving so it’s all the more important that you don’t allow yourself to be distracted. Keep your eyes on the road and set some ground rules before you start on a journey such as

  • no shouting, screaming or fighting while the engine is on
  • no talking to the driver if he or she says ‘not right now’
  • when the driver speaks, everyone in the car must listen.

Road safety is one of the most important things for a child to learn. It’s never too early to start teaching your child about the Green Cross Code.

As your child gets older, cycling safety will become important too. Cycle training is available in some areas: see this guide to cycle safety for more information.

You can accompany your child, or other learner driver, while he or she is learning to drive as long as you

  • are over 21
  • have had a full licence for three years (and still have it) in the same category as the vehicle your child is driving.

Remember that it’s probably quite a long time since you passed your test, and the driving test has undergone some big changes. You may not have taken a theory test and some of the rules and advice in The Highway Code will have changed too. See more about keeping your driving knowledge up to date.

People tend to pick up bad habits over time. Make sure you don’t teach your child bad habits because these might not only make them less safe on the road but could also cause them to fail their test.

Approved driving instructors (ADIs) are trained to teach people how to drive safely and responsibly, to enable them to pass the driving test. Even if you’re confident about teaching your child to drive, it’s a good idea to combine your lessons with some from an ADI to make sure your child has the most up-to-date knowledge and skills.

For more information, see The Official DVSA Guide to Learning to Drive and the Learner driver section on this site.