Rules and tips for child-safe road trips.
Motorhome touring is ideal if you have young children, since everything becomes easier and more accessible. And yet, children in camper vans are often seen in the most precarious positions: sitting or standing on seats without seat belts, or held in a parent’s arms. What rules and behaviours should you follow to ensure peace of mind on your travels? Let’s find out below.
Most of us love road trips, and those of us with children know that taking them on a camper van holiday can be one of life’s most exhilarating experiences. Everything becomes magical and fun when youngsters are about. Sometimes, even trips that would otherwise seem complex become more practical in a camper van, because you can bring the conveniences of home with you. Motorhomes such as Ducato-based campers are always highly customisable and equipped with all the most useful accoutrements and home comforts, ensuring trips that offer flexibility, freedom and contact with nature.
But safety on the road is a major concern, so what rules should be followed? What is the right way to transport children in a camper van?
Let’s clarify the seating situation first. A motorhome contains designated travel seats, which are located up front next to the driver, and dinette area seats, which are the ones surrounding the table. So, which seats can children use and how should they travel?
The Highway Code, which regulates the transportation of children in both cars and motorhomes, states that the driver and all passengers of the vehicle must wear seat belts. Children under 1.5 metres in height must be secured to the seat by means of an approved child restraint system that is suitable for their weight and height. In M1, N1, N2 and N3 category vehicles without restraint systems, children under three years of age are not permitted to travel and children over three years of age can only travel up front if they are above 1.5 metres in height. Children weighing up to nine kilos must be transported in a rear-facing child seat, which can only be placed on a front seat if it has no airbag, or if the airbag has been disabled. These are general rules. This means that to travel safely and in accordance with the Highway Code, motorhome drivers and passengers must all use seat belts or child seats, including passengers sitting in the dinette area. It is therefore strictly prohibited for children to stand or sit on seats without wearing a seat belt, or for a child to be held in another passenger’s arms.
As for organising the trip, the advice is to plan multiple stops along the way: children are unlikely to be able to stay seated for more than two hours at a time, so draw up an itinerary together with your kids (depending on their age) and choose attractions that will also appeal to them.
The ideal motorhomes for travellers with children are ones with overcab beds. Kids are guaranteed to love sleeping above the cab, where they can make their own little nest. That way, parents also get a bit of space and privacy.
Don’t forget the travel entertainment: colouring pens, paper and doodling pads, books, video game consoles and a few DVDs to watch on the laptop together during the evening, as well as outdoor games and equipment such as bicycles or scooters. Also, plan to wake up early in the morning so that you can set off while baby is still sleeping.
And of course, remember to bring along all your valid travel documents if you are leaving the country. Children going abroad will need their own passport, since it is no longer possible to include children on a parent's passport.
Now that you're all set, have a wonderful trip!