Handing the Keys to the Babysitter? Take These Important Steps First

by: Warren Clarke
Before handing the keys to the babysitter or nanny, take these steps to ensure your child is safe and your peace of mind is intact.

We trust our babysitters to feed our kids,, rock them to sleep, and tend to boo-boos, but asking a babysitter to drive our little ones to soccer practice, library time, or music class requires another level of trust. Before handing the keys to the babysitter or nanny, take these steps to ensure your child is safe and your peace of mind is intact.

Gather Information

Your nanny may be excellent with your kids, but child-care skills and driving ability are two separate traits. Don't feel bad about asking your nanny certain key questions or doing the research necessary to ensure she stays safe while behind the wheel.

Ask the right questions. You can get a good sense for someone’s driving habits by simply asking a few questions, such as: What do you do with your phone when driving? What would you do in the case of a flat tire? How fast do you drive on neighborhood streets? The babysitter’s top-of-mind answers should give you a preliminary sense of her driver smarts.

Check the babysitter’s driving record. A driving record provides you with a clear snapshot of a person's driving history. Explain to the babysitter how much you value safety behind the wheel and how it will give you peace of mind to see a history of her driving. This also sends a message regarding your expectations concerning driving behavior. In many states, you can request a person’s record with his or her consent, or you simply request the babysitter to obtain the driving record and provide it to you.

Check references. A driving record is certainly an excellent resource, but it's important to remember it only captures the instances in which someone was in an accident or got caught by the police breaking traffic laws. Speak with references who have observed the nanny's driving habits to help determine if she regularly engages in risky or distracted driver behavior.

Observe and discern. We don't leave our personalities behind once we start up the engine and hit the gas, and certain behaviors can offer insight into someone's capability as a driver. A good driver is someone who is steady, focused and able to resist distraction. Is your nanny calm, centered, and focused? Is your nanny a person who is always on her cell phone? These characteristics are likely to reveal themselves behind the wheel.

Set the Ground Rules

Once you’ve determined that you trust your babysitter to cart around your most precious cargo, set clearly defined ground rules. These will depend on your own concerns and priorities, but some recommended rules are

  • No texting and driving
  • No talking on the phone
  • No driving with friends in the car
  • No speeding
  • Ensure children are properly fastened in car seats at all times
  • No leaving children alone in the car

Consider the Car

Ideally, your babysitter should use your car to transport your children, as this gives you control over the vehicle’s quality and safety. But whether it’s your car or hers, make sure the following precautions are taken.

Practice regular vehicle maintenance. Today’s vehicles are safer than ever, but they need regular upkeep to function at their best. Make sure you get the service recommended in your car's owner's manual at the proper intervals.

Install dedicated car seats correctly. If your personal car is separate from the car you'll be providing to your nanny, invest in a child safety seat for each vehicle, and leave it there. This helps you avoid the hassle of switching seats from one car to the next, and it ensures a seat is always properly installed when the nanny is driving your children.

Get Technology on Your Side

Technology can help you keep tabs on your babysitter’s driving, as well as set limits to ensure everyone’s safety. It’s best to discuss these features with the babysitter ahead of time, so she is aware that her driving is being monitored.

Use factory-installed monitoring features. While typically marketed to parents seeking to keep tabs on their teen drivers, some factory-installed features can allow you to keep track of your nanny's driving habits. These features are offered in cars from all price points, and this technology allows you to get a text or email alert when your vehicle exceeds a certain speed or leaves geographical boundaries. Certain models also allow you to set a vehicle's maximum speed and block explicit radio content.

Use a tracking system. You don't have to purchase a specially equipped car to benefit from the latest surveillance technology. Aftermarket solutions are available that provide dependable results. Tracking systems such as Voxx Carlink ASCL4 and Hum by Verizon provide vehicle location tracking and will send you a text message if your car exceeds a certain speed. These systems are easily plugged into your vehicle's onboard diagnostics port, and they're typically compatible with models made after 1996.

As with so many tasks in parenting, delegating the driving to a babysitter requires trust, preparation, and following your gut. Taking these simple steps will help improve the chances that your children are getting a safe and reliable ride.

Warren Clarke is a consumer advocate and car expert. As a writer for CARFAX, he enjoys the opportunity to share his knowledge with parents to keep families safe on the road.