FAMILY IN CARIn addition to being good for the environment, carpooling can be a great way to save time and money. For parents with younger children in addition to their school aged ones, having help getting their kids to and home from school can be a real lifesaver.

But, with all the good carpooling can bring, there’s a potential for bad. If you’re considering carpooling, be sure to follow these rules to ensure everyone’s safety, sanity and wellbeing.

1. Require safe riding for all.

Insist that there is a seatbelt for each passenger.  Require all adults to wear their seatbelts and all children to ride in an appropriate safety restraint. While seatbelts and restraints protect those who use them, they also protect other passengers in the vehicle. In an accident, unrestrained passengers can be thrown around the vehicle and injure other riders.

2. Require that parents agree not to text or use their cell phone while driving.

When transporting children, no distractions are acceptable. Have all drivers make a pact not to use their cell phones to talk or text while driving.

3. Have a late policy.

Establish a “10 minute rule.” Have an agreement for how long you’ll wait for the kids at their home or school after the appointed pick-up time.  Be sure everyone in the carpool understands that after ten minutes past the pick-up time, the driver is free to leave the location. For younger children, you may want include a provision for contacting the parents prior to departing.

4. Have a cancellation procedure.

Have a clear procedure for cancelling carpool. Decide what time parents should be notified if the carpool is cancelled and by what time the driver should be notified if a child doesn’t require transportation.

5. Have a back-up plan.

When kids are involved, things come up and plans change. Have a back-up plan for getting your child to where she needs to go incase carpool plans are interrupted. You’ll also want to have a plan in place should your child miss her pickup.

Following a few simple rules can help to minimize the risks associated with carpooling. While carpools can have their benefits, they can also pose a real safety risk should rules not be established and followed.