Whether you are out on a school run, completing errands, or taking a road trip, ensuring your children’s safety in and around vehicles is essential. To keep your family safe on the road, follow these child passenger safety guidelines. As a bonus, by following these tips, you can set a good example for your children on safe driving etiquette!
Here are the best tips on how to ensure your child’s safety in the car.
Activate the Child Safety Locks
Always activate the child safety locks on the doors and windows to prevent children from opening them while the car is moving. This prevents children from getting injured or in an assortment of hazardous situations. Children can unintentionally trigger a power window, pinning hands, arms, fingers, or even their heads, leading to harm. So, it’s always best to have complete control over windows and doors in the driver’s hands.
Avoid Letting Kids Eat in the Car
While it seems unavoidable that snack time will coincide with a car trip at some point in your life, giving children food in the car can be dangerous. For instance, if a child were to begin to choke on a piece of food after a particularly bumpy stretch of road, you may not notice right away and certainly would not be able to react immediately. Try providing snacks before getting in the car and then offer toys for entertainment and distraction instead of relying on food. If this isn’t possible, on an extended road trip, for instance, try opting for safer snacks without as many choking hazards, such as Go-Gurt, pudding, or applesauce pouches.
Fitting seat belts correctly is essential. Only one individual per seat belt is safe, so you should never carry a child in your lap or allow them to ride unrestrained. Always make sure to model correct seat belt usage whenever in the car, as you are a role model for young children, and these habits of safely buckling up need to be instilled at a young age. Seat belts should be attached securely before the car moves and should stay on until the engine has been switched off and the car is safely in park.
Have Proper Child Restraints & Car Seats
Correctly fitting child restraints and car seats or boosters are essential for keeping your children safe on any car journey. Ensure that you are using the proper sized seat for your child’s age, height, and weight and that the unit is secured to the vehicle’s seat correctly. Because every car seat’s model is different, make sure you consult the manufacturer’s handbook and guidelines for your specific car type and check the installation regularly. In addition to safe installation, it’s best to avoid purchasing a second-hand or used car seat, as it is hard to tell if it has been damaged.
Check the Back Seat
We all can easily slip into autopilot, completing small tasks without even thinking about it, and parents are no exception. Making it a habit to check the car’s back seat before exiting the vehicle is an important practice to reduce the risk of forgetting anyone inside and the potential of heatstroke. Some parents leave essential items with their children in the back seat, such as a purse, wallet, or cellphone, to ensure they will check the car’s rear before locking up and leaving. Even if the chance of forgetting is small, it’s still important to take precautions to ensure this situation won’t happen to you or your kids!
Don’t Let Kids Play Around Parked Cars
Children shouldn’t be allowed to play around parked cars, even if they are locked. It creates a false sense of security, and if a vehicle’s parking brakes ever malfunction, your child would be in great danger. It’s also good to instill safe car habits early on, as parked cars and a vehicle about to back up would look very similar to a child.
Keep Calm and Carry On
It’s crucial to teach children appropriate vehicle etiquette early on. This includes remaining calm in the back seat whenever the car is in motion or at a stoplight. Children need to understand that if they are jumping around, yelling, or being otherwise rambunctious, it can significantly distract the driver and put all the passengers and surrounding drivers at risk. Providing children with relaxing activities or quiet projects is an excellent way to keep them engaged and distracted during any long car trips.
Keep the Car Locked
Not only does this prevent theft, keeping your vehicle locked while it’s parked in the driveway or garage is another important way to keep your kids safe around your car. Locking your vehicle prevents children from playing inside and potentially becoming trapped and victims of heatstroke. You also won’t have to worry about them playing with the vehicle’s controls, leading to dangers like someone being run over or accidentally rolling out into oncoming traffic. In addition, make sure to store your car keys safely out of reach of any children to prevent the risk of little fingers coming across them and potentially opening or starting the car.
Look Both Ways
Even if your children are years away from crossing the road on their own, it’s a good idea to teach them safe crossing habits from a young age. Instead of using vague instructions such as “watch for cars” or “look both ways,” demonstrating the technique of checking left, right, and left again is specific and more practical. Teach children that they should look all around them and then a second time to ensure a car has not approached while looking the other way. The more you demonstrate and practice this method with children, the more prepared they will be to cross the road safely by themselves.
Never Leave Children Unattended
This may seem obvious, but it is important never to leave your child in a car unattended, even if for only a couple of minutes. The variety of dangers and hazards with unsupervised children in a car do not have any time constraints—your child can get trapped in a seat belt or harness, hit controls that cause the car to move, or get into other dangerous situations. These situations include carjacking, kidnapping, a vehicle fire, or a crash. It’s safer to take your child with you whenever leaving the vehicle.
Roll Down Windows Before Reversing
Though most cars now have reliable cameras for backing up, it’s important to double-check before reversing in your car. Open the windows, keep the radio off, and go slowly—this allows you to hear what is happening around you clearly, especially should you hear a child nearby or someone shouting for you to stop. Also, keep in mind your blind spots to avoid backing into someone or something. Many cars have zones where smaller individuals such as children are entirely invisible in mirrors and visual checks.
Ensure Safe Sleeping Positions
Though it may not seem crucial, always ensure your children are sleeping in safe positions when in the car. Keep the child harness or seat belt secure even as they sleep, and ensure they are using the headrests attached to high-back boosters, car seats, or the vehicle’s seat. Using headrests for neck support prevents the child’s head from falling towards their chest, jeopardizing their airways, and causing harm in an accident.
Assign Safe Seating Arrangements
Ensure your children are riding in the appropriate area of the car—children under 13 years of age should always ride in the vehicle’s rear seat, with a proper child seat, booster seat, or seat belt. This protects them from possible injury from front-seat airbags, should they deploy. Teach children that airbags are designed to protect adults from impacts and that their force could seriously hurt a child with a smaller and more fragile body.
Secure Loose Items
Any loose items in the car become dangerous projectiles in the case of a crash or heavy braking. Make sure that any loose gear is secured in the trunk using cargo anchors, put heavy items on the floor or in the trunk, and do not place anything on top of the cargo pile or package shelf that could be launched into the car. This includes pets and people—all passengers need to be secured during travel, furry and human. Ensure your pets are safely restrained in a crate, carrier, or with a pet harness.
Teach Kids About Reversing Cars
Educate children about what a car looks like when it is about to back up. This is a simple method that can save a child’s life someday—teach kids what reverse taillights look like, what the beeping sound is when a larger vehicle is reversing, and make sure they understand to give these situations a wide berth.
If you found these safety tips helpful and want to learn more, check out our blog on what to do if in an accident.