Finding the Right People for a School Carpool

A picture of a family in a car
Photo © Sam Edwards / Getty Images

Do you want to lighten your burden of driving children to school and activities daily? Joining a carpool can be a great way to reduce the amount of time you spend driving while sharing the costs of fuel with others. There are also other advantages, like decreasing traffic in school parking lots and providing extra social time for children.

If you are thinking about joining a carpool, you should first clearly define for yourself what it is your family needs—and can give—in a carpool. 

If that sounds like relationship advice, it is because successful carpooling is really about building and maintaining relationships. Once you find out what you need from a carpool, you need to know where you can find the right carpool matches for your family.

1) Find Out If You Have Compatible Carpooling Schedules

You may just assume that other parents with children going to the same school as your child will have the same drop-off and pick-up schedule for your family. It may be that other families have to make stops for older or younger children at different schools, or their children may be in different before and after school activities than yours. Rather than assume, be sure to discuss this with the parents you're interested in carpooling with. 

If there are days you won't be able to drive, check to make sure the other family will be available on those days.

2) Check to Make Sure They Are a Safe Driver

You need to decide how you will determine if the person who will be driving your children to the carpool is a safe driver. This will be easy if you decide to carpool with a longtime friend whom you already know closely. But if you're looking for someone new to carpool with, there are a few things to consider to determine whether they're a safe driver. 

Since each state handles driving records and public access to other people's traffic and minor offense history differently, you will want to find out how to access someone else's driving history in your area.

Ask for the same information that you would also be willing to provide to the other family's driver. 

In some states, drivers can get a copy of their driving history for a small fee from their local DMV office. Other states have public access databases where people can search for records—whether their own or someone else's. You can also check the National Driver Register, which lists individuals who have records of serious traffic violations and other offenses. You may also be able to obtain a recent history of their insurance claims, accidents, or tickets from their auto insurance company to share with the other driver.

3) Check That They Are Driving an Insured Vehicle

Does the other driver have the legally required driver's insurance for your area? Is there coverage that would pay your child's medical bills if they were a passenger in an auto accident? 

The first question can be easy to answer—either a driver has legally mandated car insurance, or not. 

The second question is a little more complicated, in part because states define and require passenger injury coverage in different ways. If the driver has personal injury protection (PIP) on their policy, then their coverage will help cover costs of medical bills for other vehicle passengers in the event of an auto accident. Other policies or state guidelines may cover accident-related passenger injuries under bodily injury liability insurance or underinsured motorist policies

Your family's own medical coverage will likely help to cover some portion of medical bills from an accident-related injury. To ensure that your child is protected and covered if the unthinkable happens, it is best to plan ahead just in case.

Knowing and understanding how your child's medical bills would be covered in the event of an auto accident will keep you from facing any additional surprises. 

4) Can Your Family Get Along With the Other Family?

You need to be able to clearly discuss scheduling and carpooling rules with the other carpool families. Be sure that you feel comfortable talking with other potential drivers. Also, keep in mind that your children will be riding with children from other families.

You don't need to look for similar parenting styles—what matters more is that you are able to effectively communicate with one another. Do they reply promptly after you call, text, or email them with a question? Are they going to be punctual when they pick up and drop off your child?

Remember, you will be depending on them to get your child or children to school or other activities on time. How someone responds when you first form a carpool is a strong indicator of what they will be like once the carpool is established.

Places to Find Parents to Carpool to School

Once you know what kind of drivers you're aiming for, you need to know where to look so you can find them. If you don't have a good friend who has a perfect schedule for you to carpool with, there are several places you can search:

  • PTA/PTO - Some school parent-teacher associations or organizations will provide a newsletter or maintain a list of parents willing to carpool. Ask your school's PTA/PTO if they have such a list. If they do not, they may become inspired to organize a list once you ask.
  • School Office - Sometimes the school itself will maintain a list of parents interested in carpooling. This is common practice among some private or charter schools since they are not always required to provide busing transportation for children to get to school.
  • Coordinators of Extracurricular Programs - Your child's before or after school activities may have an organized carpool schedule already in place. Ask the person who coordinates the activity for more information. If none such group exists, ask if they know of anyone else looking to carpool so you can help get one started.
  • Online Carpool Sites - There are a variety of online resources for carpooling today. Some schools will participate in an online carpool matching site, such as carpooltoschool.com. Parents can go to the online resource that their school participates in to find other families to carpool with. You can also try individual carpool matching sites such as Carpoolworld or eRideShare.

A Word From Verywell

Taking the time to find a good carpool match is probably the most challenging part of having a good carpool system. Taking this extra time to think about what your family needs and which families can make good carpool partners are important steps to ensuring your carpooling experience is a successful, beneficial one.

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  1. Education Commission of the States. Charter Schools - Does the state specify who must provide transportation to charter school students? 2014. 

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