Planning a back-to-school carpool? Great idea! Carpools not only save you time and gas, but they’re also more fun. Until they’re not. While the best carpool can save your sanity, some carpool etiquette breaches can make you want to tear your hair out. If you’re setting up the school or soccer carpool, consider initiating these carpool ground rules that’ll help keep everyone safe. And happy.

Rule 1: Safety first

The most important rule of the carpool is that everyone’s safe. That means kids are buckled. Parents are obeying all traffic and school safety rules. And there’s absolutely no distracted driving or texting while driving. If you don’t know a parent who’s part of your carpool, it’s okay to ask about their driving record and even make sure they have insurance. (Also don’t hesitate to ask your own kid how they seem to be doing.)

Rule 2: Agree on a schedule

Everyone has their own idea of what works best, whether it’s each family having a day, someone doing all mornings, someone driving all afternoons, etc. The important thing is to make sure that everyone ends up with shifts that work for them. If no one wants to do early morning Fridays, then figure out a way to rotate. The carpool only works if everyone’s okay with their shifts.

Rule 3: Decide how changes will occur

If Dad X is out of town, how does that shift get covered? What if your kid is sick but you’re the driver? Sometimes stay-at-home parents end up with the bulk of last-minute requests because they “can.” Make sure you have a plan in place for whether trading is required and how you’ll reach out for rotating emergencies.

Rule 4: Create a contact list

Make sure every parent has cell phone and email contact for the group. And ask them to indicate the best way to communicate with them — whether it would be different for general messages or last-minute emergencies.

Rule 5: Discuss seating arrangements

Does the driver’s kid always sit shotgun? What if they aren’t big enough? Does everyone bring their own booster or does each parent have enough? Is it first come, first served? Think through these issues so there are no seating-related spats.

Rule 6: Establish the carpool etiquette rules

Go over safety rules that all kids should adhere to, such as not hanging their feet or hands out the window, staying buckled, and using an inside voice. Then discuss some of the other “sticky” situations that might arise, such as whether snacks are allowed and how you’ll deal with different tastes in music. (And whether people are allowed to sing along.)

Rule 7: Be on time

That goes for both drivers and passengers. Of course, sometimes last-minute snafus happen. If the problem is infrequent, institute a funny consequence, like the violator has to bring a snack for everyone the next day, or sit in the “undesirable” seat. But if you’re consistently waiting for one person, it’s okay to politely confront them with some data on how many times they’ve been late and explain how it’s affecting the entire carpool.

And the most important carpool ground rule? Make sure your own car insurance is up to date.

Car insurance 101 | Car safety


about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.