Carpool Tips and Tricks
Parents spend hours behind the wheel chauffeuring their children back and forth to school, sport practices and afterschool activities. Throw in multiple children, and it can be difficult to get everyone where they need to be on time. Setting up a carpooling arrangement can bring welcome relief. Chances are you’ll find lots of other parents who want in.
Organize a Carpool Group
Create a Schedule
- School is the first beast to conquer. To reduce your time on the road, start with your children’s circle of friends, preferably in your neighborhood. Get input from your kids on whose parents they would feel comfortable riding with. Then, spread the word to those you think are trustworthy.
- Make extracurricular activities your second round. For this, speak with parents whose kids are involved in the same weekly activities as your children. Families who live in the same neighborhood are ideal, but don’t rule out an arrangement with someone a couple of streets away.
- Narrow your list. If you only want one family to carpool with, then reach out to them directly. This is likely to be an easy arrangement. One family can drop off and the other can pick up. This can also ease stress if you prefer to work out carpooling on a week-to-week basis.
- Organize a meeting if you aren’t already friendly and comfortable with the parents in your carpool. Get to know them to make sure it’s a good fit for everyone.
- Plan a driving rotation next. When more than two families are involved, each family can be responsible for drop off or pick up on a designated day of the week. No matter the arrangement, it is critical to discuss schedules upfront, so there’s no confusion — or missed pick-ups.
- Create a sign up on SignUpGenius for a large carpool group. It’s an easy way to coordinate drivers and takes just a few minutes of your time. Creating a driving schedule will reduce the chance for confusion about driving responsibilities.
Make coordinating carpools simple! SAMPLE
Figure Out Logistics
- Build in extra time in case you run into traffic delays or have a child who isn’t quite ready when you arrive for pick up.
- Remember safety is most important. When delays occur, a hurried driver is more likely to rush through traffic signals.
- Make sure to pick a regular drop-off and pick-up location. Keeping everyone on the same page will minimize misunderstandings.
Establish Ground Rules
Keep Communication Lines Open
- Start a rule that only parents drive the carpool. Say no to teen drivers who are more likely to text while driving or get distracted.
- Establish a protocol for a parent or child who is sick since this will almost certainly come up.
- Insist that parents don’t run errands while carpooling. Kids need to come straight home from their activities to decompress from their day. They can’t do this if they’re sitting in a car while someone runs into the grocery store or stops to pick up dry cleaning.
- Make sure everyone shares their cell phone numbers, so they can be contacted about any unexpected changes in carpooling schedule. An illness, family emergency or sudden switch of a work schedule could alter someone’s ability to perform driving duties.
- Make sure you have quick access to contact information. It doesn’t do any good to have someone’s number if you don’t save it in your cell phone. A group text is a perfect way to keep everyone informed if you are unable to make your pick up.
- Remember, sooner or later, someone is going to forget a turn, especially for large carpool groups. A child getting left at school or at practice can be a pretty traumatic event. This can be easily avoided by using the reminder feature on SignUpGenius to notify drivers of their upcoming duties.
Arrange pick-ups, snack schedules and more! SAMPLE
Think About Safety
- Make safety your first concern when carpooling. Your driving practices must always be safe — your passengers are watching your every move, so don’t run red lights or text. Teach children safe driving by showing them how it’s done.
- Arrange to have a booster seat for any young children who are part of your carpool. The driver should ensure all passengers are buckled up and wearing seat belts properly. Always do a visual check before putting the car in gear.
- Driving someone else’s precious cargo is serious business. If you are not sure how safely a parent drives, ask your children after the first week. If you hear that kids are not buckled, drivers are using their phone while driving or young kids are riding shotgun, that’s a deal-breaker. Make safety rules explicit before carpooling starts.
Establish Basic Passenger Rules
- Make sure there are clear rules for kids, such as using their inside voices, keeping hands to themselves and not hanging their hands or feet from the windows. All drivers must enforce the rules.
- Enforce the rules. If any passenger — including your child — becomes unruly, pull off the road to review the safety rules in a calm manner. Correcting someone else’s child can be tricky but might be necessary for a safe carpool. If the problem persists, have a direct chat with their parent.
- Create a snack menu if they’re allowed. For example, bottled water, fruit, crackers and granola bars. Don’t be the cool parent by giving out candy. Ban peanut products, and be aware of any allergies in the carpool group. Consider carrying an EPI pen for severe allergy cases.
The goal of any carpool is to get the kids to school and activities safely and on time, but the unspoken rule is: don’t forget to have fun! Allowing children to choose age-appropriate songs or games to play will keep the kids busy and make the ride more enjoyable for everyone. Once you’ve established the above rules to help your carpool experience go smoothly, the rest will come easily.
Sara Kendall is a freelance writer and mom of two daughters.