It can be intimidating to drive in another country. It can make you even more nervous to be driving someone’s children as part of your au pair job. While the core components of driving are relatively similar in all parts of the world, Au Pair USA is happy to provide you with some tips for becoming a confident and capable driver in the U.S. Not only will reading the following information be helpful, our Academy training and resources are always available to review whenever you need a refresher about American driving.
Au Pair Driving Pre-Work
Before you begin driving or even arrive, it’s a good idea to ask your host family any questions you may have about driving their car (and their children) specifically. For example,
- Is the car automatic or manual? (Most American cars are automatic)
- Where do you keep the car keys, insurance papers, and car registration?
- Do I park in the garage, driveway, or on the street?
- Do the kids need car seats? How do I use them?
- How do I get a driver’s license in the U.S.?
Your host family will provide you with all the information you need to feel comfortable getting behind the wheel, and most importantly, driving their children. Take notes, take photos, research information, and start studying the traffic laws in your U.S. home state so you can feel as prepared as possible when it’s time to start officially driving.
Au Pair Driving Real-Time
When it’s time to start practicing driving, remember to start slow. No matter how long you’ve been driving in your home country, you’re in a new place now, in a different car with different rules, signs, and signals. Consider starting in an empty parking lot, as if you were just learning to drive. Then, go to some residential, quiet streets. Once you’re comfortable there, begin driving on main roads and highways if your host family agrees.
It’s always important to avoid distractions while driving. Ensure you are not using your cell phone or become distracted by the radio or a friend or child in the car. If someone or something needs your attention, pull over safely to manage the situation.
U.S. laws are likely different when it comes to driving and driving with children. Children always sit in the back seat unless they’ve reached a weight/height requirement to move to the front passenger seat. Many will also use car seats or boosters until they’ve also reached a weight/height requirement. Babies’ car seats are recommended to face backwards for at least a year (often longer). And children are never to be left alone in a car, not even for a minute! Not only is this illegal, but it can be life threatening, too, as children overheat more quickly than adults do. The National Safety Council and Au Pair USA provide great reminders for safety on this topic.
Au Pair Driving Communication Tips
Remember, driving as an au pair is a privilege and big responsibility. Ensure you’re following your host family’s rules when it comes to car usage. For example:
- What time the car needs to be back at home (curfew)
- What type of gas the car requires so you can refill it when necessary
- How far you’re allowed to drive the car when using it for personal time
- If friends are allowed to drive with you in the car
Au Pair USA offers tons more information and resources to prepare au pairs for driving in the U.S. Be sure to visit your passport portal and access additional training information to ensure you feel confident to start driving during your au pair year.