Traveling with children can be fun, but it can also be stressful as it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of your young passengers. While you may not have control over other drivers, you can make sure that children are properly protected in your own car. Here are simple steps to take to make sure children are safe at all times in and around vehicles.
Buckle up. It seems so simple to do, but many people still don’t use seat belts despite studies showing their benefit. In 2011, among fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants, more than half (52 percent) of those killed were unrestrained. This is especially an issue for teen drivers. In 2011, 42 percent of drivers 16- to 19-years old killed in a motor vehicle crash were unbelted.
Secure gear. Too much stuff in the car can make for dangerous projectiles if you have to stop short. Secure loose items in the trunk using cargo anchors. Put heavy items on the floor and as far forward in the cargo area as possible. Don’t put anything on top of the cargo pile that can easily fly into the seat area.
Make sure children are in the proper car seat and it is installed correctly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about 75 percent of car seats are improperly installed. To make sure your seat is installed correctly, go to www.safekids.org and find a car seat technician near you to inspect the seat, and correct it if necessary. Learn the right age to move your child up into the next car seat, but know that a move up to the next level is a step down in safety. Don’t rush to move a child from one form of restraint to the next, no matter how much they complain that their friends are in boosters, or have moved on to just wearing a seat belt. Keep them in a child safety seat appropriate to their height and weight.
Don’t text and drive. We all know the allure of the beeps and buzzes of cell phone notifications, but resist the temptation to read and respond to messages. Turn down the volume, shut it off, or put it away. Distracted driving not only creates a dangerous situation, but it models bad behavior for children.
Never leave children alone in or around cars. Twenty-four children so far this year have died from being left in a hot car or from wandering into a car without a parent’s knowledge. Be vigilant to make sure you know where your child is at all times and leave reminders that a child is in the back, such as a toy on the front seat or briefcase in the back, so you don’t inadvertently forget they are there.
Many children also die from playing near cars and getting backed over. If you don’t have a backup camera on your car, take care to make sure no children are behind your vehicle by walking around your car past the trunk to get to the driver door, and then checking again for children or pets behind your vehicle before you put it in reverse every time.
By being cautious, attentive, and safety minded with children, you can help to make sure they stay safe in and around vehicles. For more on driving with kids, see our kids and car safety special section.