How to Keep Your Kids Safe in and Around the Car
When it comes to keeping your children safe in and around cars these things are of utmost importance:
– Children younger than 13 should sit in the back.
– Use appropriate restraints for a child’s age and size.
– Follow the directions in the instruction manuals for both the child restraint and vehicle.
– Pick a vehicle with top crash test ratings.
– Never leave kids alone in or around vehicles.
– Use proper restraints
Kids are the most safe when they ride in the back seat and in the correct restraint for their age and size. Children start out in rear-facing restraint systems, then move up to forward facing and then a booster seat, before graduating to the adult safety belts.
There are lots of choices on the market for child restraint systems in terms of style, features and price. Some rear-facing child restraints can be turned around to become forward facing when the child is old enough to graduate to that. Additionally, some forward-facing child restraints can be converted to booster seats by removing the internal harness and using a safety belt instead. Booster seats also come in both backless and highback versions.
If you use a rear facing seat, never put it in the front seat. Babies and toddlers should stay in a rear-facing restraint until at least age 2. For your child’s ultimate safety, keep them rear-facing as long as possible, until they grow too big for the restraint’s height or weight limit. This information can be found in the owner’s manual that comes with your seat and also on the label affixed to the seat.
A lot of infant seats snap into a base that attaches to the vehicle. Be certain the base and seat are tightly secured according to instructions in the manuals for the infant seat and vehicle.
Also make sure to route the harness through the slots that are at or slightly below your child’s shoulders. The harness should be snug, and the chest clip should be at chest/armpit level.
A certified child passenger safety technician can check your installation and answer any questions you may have. To find a technician or an inspection station near you, check out http://www.seatcheck.org.
For forward facing restraint systems, route the harness through the slots at or slightly above your child’s shoulders. The harness needs to be snug and the chest clip at chest/armpit level.
Booster seats are for older children who aren’t quite ready for the adult belts and lift the children and position lap and shoulder belts so they offer the best protection in the event of a crash. There are alternatives to booster seats which also properly position the seat belt on children.
Since some boosters provide better belt fit than others, you can be sure your child’s is a good fit by seeing that the shoulder belt fits snug across the center of the shoulder and not across the neck or face. The lap belt should lie flat across the upper thighs and not on the tummy.
In order for your child to use adult safety belts, NHTSA recommends that children should be able to keep their back against the seat, with their knees naturally bent over the seat edge and their feet flat on the floor.
Once your older child can graduate to safety belts, remember proper use. Don’t let them put the shoulder belt behind their back or under their arm, where it provides no protection at all. Make sure older children ride restrained in back at least through age 12.
Do you know about LATCH?
Check out your owner’s manual to see if your vehicle has LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). LATCH makes it easier to attach child restraints securely. Another option is to use a safety belt to secure the child seat. Either installation is safe when done correctly. LATCH weight limits vary, so be sure to check your vehicle and child restraint manuals for complete information and details.
Some restraint systems fit better in some cars than others. Before buying a restraint system, try it out in your vehicle to see that it’s a good fit.
Supervise children in and around cars
Before backing out of your driveway or parking spot, make sure you have full view of any nearby kiddos. It is a good idea to roll down windows to help hear them, as well. Younger children are most at risk of being killed in backover crashes because it is hard to spot them when they are close to the vehicle. This is especially true if you drive a high-riding pickup or SUV.
Children behind a vehicle are hard to spot. Backup cameras make it easier to see them, but you cannot solely depend on them. You should still check around your vehicle before backing up.
When on the road…
When on the road, make a rule that NO ONE unbuckles while the vehicle is in motion.
Be aware that power windows can be dangerous. Sometimes kids unintentionally trigger a power window, trapping hands, fingers, arms or even their head. Many times injuries or deaths happen because children were left unsupervised. There have been cases in which an adult unbeknownst to them trapped a child when closing a window. Children should never be left alone in a vehicle. Not even for a minute.
Heatstroke is a serious threat. A child can quickly die in a closed car, even in cool weather. The temperature inside your car can rise nearly 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes according to NHSTA. Although many cases of heatstroke involve a parent or caregiver who forgets a child in the back seat, it’s not unheard of for children to get into unlocked vehicles themselves. Check the back seat every time you park your car and keep doors locked so children can’t climb into cars to play. For more information, visit safercar.gov/heatstroke.
Pick a vehicle with good crash ratings
Vehicle size and weight matter. So do crash avoidance features and crash ratings. In general, smaller, lighter vehicles offer less protection than larger, heavier ones. However, the material of a car makes a difference too.
Look for vehicles that earn IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ or TOP SAFETY PICK, as well as at least 4 of 5 stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.