Phones, tablets, and laptops are wonderful tools to stay connected and informed, but we need to be careful not to let them become distractions from real-life interactions and most importantly our responsibilities.
Au Pairs – Imagine for a moment that you went to the hospital and you were in the care of doctors and nurses. How would you feel if those doctors and nurses who were there to care for you were more interested in texting or using their personal computer than caring for you? How would that make you feel, about yourself and about them? Would you think that you were getting the treatment you deserved? Would you feel like paying the bill after your stay?
Life as an au pair, it is a fine balance between employee and family member. You live with your host family and participate with them as a member of the family, but you also have clear responsibilities as a childcare provider. Being a childcare provider is truly one of the most important jobs I can think of because you are helping to shape the next generation. What message are you sending them when you would rather interact with a computer than with them? How will they feel about themselves and about you? Children feel as though everything is about them. They will see this as a rejection of them and they will be more likely to act out.
It also poses a safety concern when you are not paying enough attention to the children in your care. Injuries and accidents happen, but when an adult caregiver is close by and appropriately supervising the chances of a major injury dramatically reduce.
During work hours, the following would not be considered acceptable:
Texting* or talking to friends on the phone
Using Skype, FaceTime, or any other video chat
Using TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook,YouTube, or any other app or social media site
Playing online games
Anything else on your phone or computer unless it is going to Nickjr.com together with your host children
*you do want to be on the lookout for texts from your host parents
Even if you work 45 hours a week, that leaves you 123 hours per week for all of that other stuff, or about 70 hours (if you are getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night.)
Phone Use in the Car – Using your phone to text or talk without Bluetooth while driving is illegal, a huge safety risk, and a bad example for the children (future drivers) in the car with you. One moment of distraction when you are driving can change someone’s life forever: your own and/or others around you. If you find the temptation to check your phone is too much for you, set up the driving mode feature on your phone.
Host Parents – You need to be clear about what you consider acceptable during work hours to avoid misunderstandings. Also, please understand that you are dealing with a generation of people who are very accustomed to being plugged in at all times. Their intention is not to be rude, they don’t necessarily realize how their actions will be perceived. Please use this information as an opportunity to begin a dialogue on the issue.
Cold weather can bring a new set of driving challenges, especially if you are not from a climate where you have experience with these conditions. Driving in the snow and ice can be a challenge even for experienced drivers. If you don’t have to go out in bad weather, stay home. If you do have to go out, here are some tips. More information can be found on the AAA website.
Top 10 Winter Driving Tips
Bulky coats and snowsuits should not be worn underneath the harness (straps) of a car seat. Check out information here and discuss with your host parents.
Keep cold-weather supplies in your car, such as a blanket, a flashlight, window ice scraper, snacks and water.
Make certain your tires are properly inflated and have plenty of tread.
Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times.
Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
Avoid sudden moves, accelerate and decelerate slowly.
Don’t stop going up a hill.
Increase the following distance between you and the car ahead of you.
Know your brakes. Test our how they perform on slippery surfaces in a safe place where there are not other cars parked close to you.
Leave early to give yourself extra time and drive slowly.
Even better… If you don’t have to go out driving in snow and ice, stay home.
Driving in the snow and ice can be a challenge even for experienced drivers. If you don’t have to
go out in bad weather, stay home. If you do have to go out, here are some tips from AAA. Check out the full article on the AAA website.
Tips for driving in the snow:
Accelerate and decelerate slowly. …
Drive slowly. …
The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. …
With some schools about to go back in session and many new au pairs who have recently arrived, I wanted to remind everyone about what to do in different situations with school buses. If you have questions, please ask myself or your host parents.
The rules regarding stopping for school buses are:
It is against the law to pass a stopped school bus while its lights are flashing and its’ stop arm is extended.
On undivided roadways, with no physical barrier or median, vehicles must stop on both sides of the roadway.
Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate that the bus has stopped, and children are getting on or off. Motorists approaching from either direction must wait until the red lights stop flashing before proceeding.
Police, who observe a motorist failing to stop and remained stopped for a school bus, can issue the violator a citation which carries a $570.00 fine and 3 points. Drivers failing to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk can be issued a citation for $80.00, and drivers failing to exercise due caution when encountering children can be issued a citation for $70.00.
Having a car accident is a very upsetting, stressful situation. Being prepared and knowing what to do can make things a little bit easier. Make sure you know which host parent to call in case of an accident.
Keep Safety First. Drivers involved in minor accidents with no serious injuries should move cars to the side of the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic. Leaving cars parked in the middle of the road or busy intersection can result in additional accidents and injuries. If a car cannot be moved, drivers and passengers should remain in the cars with seatbelts fastened for everyone’s safety until help arrives. Make sure to turn on hazard lights and set out cones, flares or warning triangles if possible.
Exchange Information. After the accident, exchange the following information: name, address, phone number, insurance company, policy number, driver license number and license plate number for the driver and the owner of each vehicle. If the driver’s name is different from the name of the insured, establish what the relationship is and take down the name and address for each individual. Also make a written description of each car, including year, make, model and color — and the exact location of the collision and how it happened. Finally, be polite but don’t tell the other drivers or the police that the accident was your fault, even if you think it was.
Photograph and Document the Accident. Use your camera to document the damage to all the vehicles. Keep in mind that you want your photos to show the overall context of the accident so that you can make your case to a claims adjuster. If there were witnesses, try to get their contact information; they may be able to help you if the other drivers dispute your version of what happened.
What should you have in the trunk of your car in case of an emergency? I’ll give you a hint- it’s not a cat. While they are cute, they are not very helpful in a crisis. Below is a list of some more helpful things to keep in the car.
Recommended items to have in the car in case of emergency
Cell phone car charger
Jumper Cables (be sure you know how to use them)
Flashlight and extra batteries
Flares & Reflective triangles
Bag of sand or kitty litter (to help if stuck in ice, snow)
Small shovel, snow brush and ice scraper
Extra windshield solvent
Blankets and extra clothing
Nonperishable food items and water (e.g.. snack bars)
List of emergency telephone numbers on a card in the glove compartment
Auto club card (AAA or roadside assistance)
Here is another post with a list of what to keep in the car glove box.
It is always a good idea to keep the gas tank at least half full at all times, especially in the winter.
Two important reasons to make your car a phone-free zone:
Safety – There is no text message that is worth risking lives.
It’s the Law – Please read the details below about changes (effective October 1 to the Maryland law to increase enforcement and the penalty (fine & points against your license) for breaking the law.
Sending and reading text messages behind the wheel has been illegal in Maryland for more than a year, but under the existing law, it was a secondary offense. That meant police had to find another reason to pull a driver over in order to issue a texting citation.
The state legislature changed texting to a primary offense this year. Drivers who are using the Global Positioning System function in their mobile devices or who are sending a text message to the emergency 911 system are exempted from prosecution.
Under the new law, those caught texting can be fined $70 and receive one point toward suspension of a driver’s license. But if the action is judged to have caused an accident, the fine increases to $110 and the number of points to three.
Sending and reading text messages while driving is a primary offense in the District and a secondary office in Virginia. It is a primary offense in 30 other states and a secondary offense in Iowa and Nebraska.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 20 percent of crashes that resulted in injury in 2009 involved distracted driving. NHTSA said 995 fatal crashes that year involved cellphone distraction. Sixteen percent of all drivers younger than 20 who were involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted.
In this 90 second video people share stories about how a simple decision to read or send a text message while driving had deadly consequences.
I urge all au pairs and host families to watch this video and discuss. This is one simple decision and commitment that can make us all safer on the roads.
I hope you all have a wonderful time celebrating the New Year. I just wanted to remind you to please make good safe decisions.
Don’t drink and drive.
Take public transportation -metro, bus or a cab. Metro and buses will run until 2 am on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
One friend can be the designated driver (and not drink alcohol, so she can drive everyone home safely.)
Sober Ride Home – Take this number with you in case you find yourself without a safe ride home tonight. 800-200-TAXI
A local nonprofit group is offering New Year’s Eve revelers in the Washington region a free ride home. The Washington Regional Alcohol Program says its annual SoberRide program begins at 10 p.m. Thursday and ends at 6 a.m. Friday, with taxi cab companies providing free service to those age 21 or older.
That goes for residents in the District of Columbia and the counties of Montgomery, Prince George’s, Arlington, Fairfax, eastern Loudoun and Prince William.
The group, which includes law enforcement and business officials, says the aim is to keep would-be drunken drivers off the roadways.
The offer is good for fares up to $50. The service is available through the SoberRide phone number: 800-200-TAXI.
Don’t Drink Alcohol if You are Under 21 – It is against the law and if you are caught, you will have to purchase your own ticket and return home.
If You are Over 21, Drink Alcohol Wisely – Know your limits and don’t drink to the point of becoming ill.
Keep Your Eyes on Your Drinks – Don’t let someone you don’t know get a drink from the bar for you. When you order a drink take it straight from the bartender and keep it with you. If you leave your glass sitting where you can’t see it, someone can put a drug in your drink. If you
Protecting Your Personal Health & Safety – It is safest to be together with friends. Be careful not to put yourself in dangerous situations with people you don’t know. Consider carefully what information you give to people you have just met.