With most moms working outside the home, many parents need a babysitter or nanny to take over the chauffeuring duties for their kids. In fact, one poll found that 97 percent of nannies listed driving as one of their job responsibilities.
While it might be a necessity to turn over driving duties to a sitter or nanny, it can be nerve-wracking for parents. "This loss of control can be quite scary," says Lacey Moler, a mom of three from Austin, Texas.
Luckily, you can make the experience less stressful by taking some concrete steps in advance to ensure your children's safety.
Check the babysitter's driving record.
The laws on a third party looking into someone's driving record vary by state, with some requiring additional paperwork, such as permission from the candidate before they will release any information.
"If you go through a reputable nanny placement agency, they will run your nanny's driving record," says Rebecca Stewart, owner of VIP Nannies Inc. in Studio City, California. "It's good to run this even if she is not driving your children," she says. Sometimes the information on a driving record "can say a lot about a person."
You can also ask your nanny or sitter to print out a copy of her record for you. She can do it through the state's motor vehicle department for a nominal fee. Some red flags to look for include citations for reckless driving, using a cell phone when driving, excessive speeding and driving while intoxicated.
Make a copy of her license.
For security purposes, you should make a photocopy of the license so that you have the full legal name of your sitter or nanny on hand. You also want to make sure she has an unrestricted license, one that does not limit when and where she can drive.
Check her references.
Before allowing her sitter to drive around with her 2-year-old son, Dana Malavarca of San Diego, California, called other parents who had hired the woman to drive their own kids around town. "It's always comforting to get that reinforcement from other moms that they trust this person with their children," she says.
Decide what car she'll be driving.
Ideally, it will be your vehicle, says Carolyn Stulberg, founder and executive director of Alexandria School, a nanny school and placement agency in Solon, Ohio. By using your own car, you'll be able to make sure that it is in good condition and has all of the features needed to keep your little ones safe.
If you and your spouse need two cars for commuting, have a trusted mechanic check out the nanny's car beforehand. That lets you confirm that the car is well maintained, has passed a safety inspection, is equipped with airbags and has seatbelts that work properly.
Install child safety seats.
The car that your sitter will use should have appropriate child safety seats that are properly installed for each child who needs them. To prevent installation errors, "Resist the urge to move seats back and forth between the parents' and nanny's vehicle," says Michelle LaRowe, executive director of Morningside Nannies in Houston, Texas, and author of the book Nanny to the Rescue!
Call your insurance agent.
If your nanny is driving your car on a regular basis, she needs to be added to your policy, says Kevin P. Foley, an independent insurance agent in Newark, New Jersey. "Not disclosing a driver could be construed as rate evasion and consequently grounds for canceling your policy," he says.
If the nanny is driving her own car, take a good look at her policy and be sure she has adequate coverage. Is the policy in force and current? Is it in the employee's name or someone else's?
"Nannies should confirm with their insurance agent that their policy covers transporting children for work. If not, the additional coverage should be added," explains LaRowe. "Typically, there will be a small increase in premium to secure the appropriate coverage. Parents will often cover or split the cost of increasing policy coverage for work."
Work out reimbursement.
When your sitter is driving her own car, she should be reimbursed for using the vehicle on the job, LaRowe says. The IRS standard mileage reimbursement rate is 57.5 cents per mile, and covers gas and normal wear and tear. It's only valid for miles used during work, not commuting miles.
Go for a test-drive.
While it's doubtful the sitter or nanny would do anything reckless with you in the car, it's still wise to go for a few trips with her before she takes on her driving responsibilities.
Alison Shields of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, did that when her nanny started a few years ago. "I rode around as a passenger with her driving our car [without kids] and had her drive to and from all the places she would need to drive with them. I felt better doing that, and so did she."
Sign her up for a defensive driving class.
Stulberg's agency insists that all nannies take a class that focuses on everything from driving in the snow and avoiding distractions to how to keep children engaged with appropriate activities. If you're hiring your nanny or sitter through an agency, ask if it has the same level of training. If not, look into signing your caretaker up for an advanced driver training class. Your insurance agent can help you track one down or you can find a class through your local DMV.
Start off with short trips.
"In the beginning, I just asked our sitter to bring the kids on short drives, like to school or the park, that are just a few blocks away," says Jackie Kondyra of Levittown, New York. "When my son started complaining about how slow she drives, I knew we were good and I could trust her with getting on the parkway with them to go to the mall or back to her house if needed."
Discuss your ban on cellphone use.
You might assume your sitter knows not to talk on the phone or text when driving the kids around, but don't be so sure. A 2012 study by USA Today found that 49 percent of adults admit to reading and sending messages while behind the wheel. Foley suggests taking a good look at how your nanny behaves outside the car. "There are some people who never let the phone out of their hand, or check messages while they speak to you. I would not trust that person behind the wheel with my kids," he says.
Keep tabs on her with technology.
You can check on your little passengers with Delphi Connect. With the use of the Delphi Connect module ($99 or $199, including a 4G LTE mobile hotspot) you can get real-time updates on everything from speed and vehicle location to the overall health and performance of the vehicle. You can monitor a vehicle equipped with Delphi Connect from a smartphone, laptop or tablet.
And although it was created for parents of teens, you can use the MOTOsafety Teen Driver GPS Tracker ($79) to track your babysitter's movements in the car, including location, speed, hard braking and more. You can even access a daily driver's report card and get alerts to know they arrive at their destination safely.
There are also lots of apps on the market that can help you monitor your sitter's driving, including:
Canary: This free app can monitor texting and calling habits, speeding and vehicle location for both iPhone and Android phones.
DriveSafe.ly: This app for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone users ($13.95/year for single user, $34.95/year for family pack) allows the driver to hear incoming texts and e-mails, and provides the option to send an automatic response, such as "I'm driving and will get back to you later."
Always remind them to be careful.
There's nothing wrong with calling out "Drive safely" before you head out the door each morning. "Just saying it out loud can help you feel more at ease," Moler says.
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