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10 carpool survival tips

Carpools are very useful arrangements for busy moms. But there's a bit more to carpools than just alternating driving days. Being part of a carpool implies a commitment both on your end and on the other moms'.

Before you firm up an arrangement with other parents, consider the following: Do you have enough auto insurance? General liability insurance usually won't go very far if you are involved in a serious accident.

Yes, I know you're a safe driver. But what about the uninsured motorist who plows into you at a stop sign, injuring several kids in your car? Who do you think the other parents (and their auto insurance companies) will sue to make sure their children get the best medical care?

Many schools require a minimum of $300,000 general liability insurance for field-trip drivers. So there's a ballpark number for you. At least check with your car insurance company to see whether you have enough coverage to feel safe.

Once you know you're covered, these carpool survival tips can help make the driving experience easier.

1. only carpool with kids involved in the same activities.

Set up carpools with parents at your kids' school or parents whose kids are involved in the same weekly activities as yours. 

2. set up carpools with neighborhood parents.

If you have to drive 10 miles out of your way every fourth day for one far-flung kid, the carpool may not be worth it.

3. make sure other drivers are reliable and safe.

Want to know for sure? Ask your kids the first week. They'll tell you whether they drive like you or not. (You can interpret the results.) 

4. commit only to carpool schedules that work for you.

Establish how to change the schedule, and how to notify other moms if your kid is out that day. If there are more than two of you, you'll probably want to arrange a phone tree for this as well as for emergencies.

5. plan ahead for a problem child in the carpool.

Establish that unruly children will be dropped from the arrangement after three incidents. If you work this rule in ahead of time, it's easier to address when an incident actually occurs.

6. only parents drive carpool.

Do you really want your neighbor sending her constantly texting teenage daughter to pick up the kids one day while she's getting a manicure?

7. cell service is mandatory.

Keep a carpool directory and schedule in the car for last-minute changes or questions; and ensure all drivers are reachable by cell phone during driving hours.

8. make your carpool a no-errands zone.

Insist that other parents don't run errands with kids in the car. The kids need to get home. They've had a long day. Older kids may have other activities to rush off to. And parents will worry.

9. ensure each child enters her front door before driving off.

Make sure the other parent drivers do, too.

10. exchange medical releases for treatment in the event of an emergency.

In a serious accident, time is of the essence. Make sure your minor children can receive immediate medical aid if required.

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About the Author

Tara Aronson

Tara Aronson is a native Californian. Having grown up in San Diego, she studied journalism and Spanish to pursue a career in newspaper writing. Tara, whose three children - Chris, Lyndsay, and Payne - are the light of her life, now lives and writes in Los Angeles. She also regularly appears on television news programs throughout the U.S.