carpool survival tips

Trio of young girls looking out of minivan hatchback.

Carpools are very useful arrangements for busy parents.

But there's a bit more to them than just alternating driving days. 

Being part of a carpool implies a commitment both on your end and on the other parents'.

These 10 carpool survival tips can help ensure a successful arrangement for all.

Make Sure You have Enough Liability Insurance

Before you firm up an arrangement with other parents, consider the following: Do you have enough liability insurance? 

The minimum 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 the stop sign, injuring several kids in your car? 

Who do you think the other parents (and their insurance companies) will sue to make sure their children get the best medical care?

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

Here are 10 carpool survival tips to help ensure a successful arrangement. 

1.  Choose Carpools Carefully

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

2.  Look for Neighborhood Parents

Try to find other moms in your neighborhood. 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 the Other Drivers are Safe

Make sure the other moms are somewhat reliable and are safe drivers. Want to know for sure? Ask your kids after the first week.

They'll tell you whether they drive like you or not. (You can interpret the results.) These are your babies we're talking about here. 

4.  Establish How to Make Schedule Changes

Arrange a schedule that's actually going to work for your family's commitments. 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.  Rules for Unruly Children

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

6.  Other Drivers Must Be Cleared In Advance

Teen girl texting while driving.

Make it clear that no one else may pick up your child without permission.

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

7.  Drivers Must Be Accessible By Cell 

Insist that all drivers have cell phones and that they keep them on. Keep a carpool directory and schedule in the car for last-minute changes or questions.

8.  Make Carpools a No-Errands Zone

Insist that the other moms 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 a Child Enters Home Safely

Wait until a child has entered her front door before driving off. Make sure the other parent drivers do, too.

10.   Make Sure Other Parents Have Sufficient Insurance

Make sure the other parents have a valid driver's license and sufficient insurance, too. Unsure? Ask. Arrange to swap or buy car seats for younger kids if necessary. 

Final Carpool Survival Tips 

A few more things to consider making a part of your carpool agreement:

  • Consider signing a medical release consent form for your kids. In a severe accident, time is of the essence. Make sure your minor children can receive immediate medical aid if required.
  • Establish how long you will wait for stragglers.
  • Do not use a cell phone while driving a carpool. 

Set carpool rules for the kids, too, such as:

  • Everyone wears a seat belt. The car cannot run unless seatbelts are fastened. (I had my daughter convinced this was true until she was about 7.)
  • No one under 12 rides in the front seat (if you have a passenger-side airbag).
  • No eating in the car without permission.
  • All body parts must be in the car at all times.
  • No loud voices or yelling inside the car.
  • Keep your hands to yourself - no touching anyone else.
  • Politeness is mandatory.

These carpool survival tips can help keep you safe - and sane - while on the road with the mini masses!

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