Family rental car mistake: The time I almost killed my kid
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
When you travel with a baby or toddler, you take precautions to make sure your bundle of joy stays safe. Many trips include a rental car, and you probably have already considered what to do about a car seat: whether you bring your own or rent one when you get there along with trying to avoid any unnecessary car seat fees. Once the seat is properly installed, you might be breathing a sigh of relief.
Not so fast. Today I want to share a car rental PSA that is absolutely imperative if you are traveling with a small child. To be honest, even 14 years later, I hate thinking about two of the scariest minutes of my life. But it’s an important story you need to know so you can prevent it from happening to you. I still see rental cars all of the time where this could easily happen.
I took basic safety for granted and it almost killed my kid
My story takes place during my first solo European trip with my toddler-aged son. The overnight flight and connection in Paris to Malaga couldn’t have gone more smoothly. I dutifully strapped my son, then 2, into his car seat in our rental car and off we went blazing down the Mediterranean highway at 70 mph (the speed limit) on a perfect October morning. We were going west, so the best views of the sea were in the left lane. Traffic was light and I was in a holiday mood.
It was a very easy assumption to make on my part, especially after an overnight flight with a 2 year old and a 30-minute wait at the rental counter in Malaga. I assumed that since I was a parent with a young child and used safety locks on the back seats, everyone did. I didn’t learn of my lapse in judgment until about 20 minutes into the drive … when his door flew completely open. Somehow, he had managed to open the door.
As I was driving 70 miles an hour on the freeway in the left lane.
Looking back 14 years later, it’s funny what I remember:
- I remember thinking, besides “$@#$@%$%@#$%!”, “Oh, that’s what they mean by ‘drag,'” as the car lurched to the left, almost hitting the guardrail and careening over the 50-foot drop to the eastbound lanes below.
- When you have to do an emergency stop at 70 mph from the left lane of a freeway, what’s behind you is scarier than what’s in front of you.
- Seat belts are strong. Really strong.
- My son laughed through the whole thing as if it were a ride at Sesame Place.
But the main thing that occurred to me every single time I rented a car from then until my youngest could be trusted with a door was what I want you to remember now: Check the child-proof door settings on your rental cars!
If you aren’t sure how to change your child locks, here is a handy primer. Don’t leave the car rental lot until you are sure this is done. You can also check the car’s manual, which most car rental agencies leave in the glove compartment.
This is a good idea if you are using Uber or Lyft as well, especially if your kid is solo in the back seat. Taking five seconds to do a child car lock safety check could save a life.
More car travel resources:
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees