With potentially dangerous situations surrounding your children at home, on shopping trips, and while traveling, it can be a constant challenge trying to keep your children safe. Traffic incidents in particular are a leading cause of injury and death in children around the world. Though accidents happen, there are several things you can do to give your child the best chance at safety when travelling in a car.
Choose the Right Car Seat
One of the most obvious safety preparations for children in cars is a properly fitted car seat. According to the CDC, a car seat can reduce a child’s risk of death by 71 percent in case of an accident. There are many things you should consider in order to choose the right car seat.
First, you’ll want to identify the type of seat you should buy based on your child’s age, height, and weight. From birth to two years old, children should use a rear-facing seat. From ages two to four, a forward-facing seat is best, and a child should use a belt-positioning booster seat from four to eight. You can tell a child is ready to go without the booster seat when an adult seatbelt fits properly on their lap and chest. Throughout this process, you should make sure your child’s weight and height are within the manufacturer’s limits listed for the car seat.
Always make sure there is a safety label and the seat meets local safety standards. You should also confirm that a seat is approved for use in your car. If this is not listed in the car seat manual, you may be able to check the manufacturer’s website. For such an important decision, be sure to check plenty of professional reviews as well as user ratings before buying a car seat.
If possible, it’s best to take your child and your car to a retailer with staff who are experienced in helping people choose and fit car seats. Some retailers will even help you try the seat in your car before you buy it. If this is not possible, make sure you can return the seat you purchase in case it doesn’t fit properly.
Most safety experts do not recommend buying a used car seat. If you do, be sure to carefully examine the condition of the car seat and confirm its full history. This is easier if you are buying the car seat from a friend. Product descriptions from online sellers may be misleading and leave out details. You’ll want to ensure the car seat has never been in a crash as even a minor accident can greatly reduce a car seat’s effectiveness in a future incident. Also check for any missing parts and make sure the cushions, straps, and buckles are in good condition.
Utilize the Safety of Your Car
Because airbags could injure or kill children in the front seat, the CDC recommends that all children younger than 13 ride in the back seat. The safest place in the vehicle is in the middle of the back seat as this area is the most insulated from impact during a collision. Also, you should avoid using aftermarket products like headrests and harness covers as these may interfere with the function of the seatbelt or car seat.
Children don’t typically understand what is at stake when you’re driving, and this may result in poor behavior, which can be a dangerous distraction. Be sure to praise good behavior in the car in order to encourage good habits early on. Simple boredom on car rides can bring out some of the worst behaviors in children. Although it can be helpful to bring along a favorite toy or some form of entertainment for children, it’s best to minimize the number of toys, books, and other unsecured objects in the back seat. In the event of a sudden stop or a crash, these will fly through the car and could injure you or your child.
When using rear-facing car seats, it may seem like a good idea to put a mirror in the back so you can monitor your child. However, this will tempt you to check on your child often while driving, putting you at a greater risk for an accident. In a similar way, consoling your child when she’s upset can distract you from driving carefully. If your child starts crying in the car, do not try to deal with the situation while you are driving. Instead, pull over at a designated parking area in order to take care of your child’s needs.
Don’t Leave Children in the Car
Never leave children alone in a vehicle for any reason. Children’s bodies heat up faster than adults’ bodies, and just a few minutes in a hot car could end in tragedy. Children left alone in the car are also at a greater risk of getting tangled and potentially strangled by a seatbelt. As a general practice, some mothers will place their purse in the back seat before a drive. This ensures that they will never accidentally leave their child in the car. Just make sure your purse is beyond the child’s reach.
Set a Good Example
Keep in mind, your driving habits will influence your children’s understanding of proper road etiquette as they grow toward driving age. This includes things like whether you wear your seatbelt, if you become angry often when driving, and whether you change lanes carefully or recklessly. Though it may take years for children to begin to understand the laws and responsibilities involved with driving, you can set an early example of how a driver should act on the road.