According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car crashes are the number one killer of children 1 to 12 years old in the United States.1 This sad statistic underscores how critical it is to take vital child car safety precautions. So what should you do?
Start with car seat safety
There are dozens of options for child car seats. Your selection should be influenced by your child’s age, weight and height. Take a look at these car seat safety tips from the NHTSA’s website Parents Central for help selecting a car or booster seat. Some key points:
- Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer’s instructions. Read the owner’s manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or LATCH system, and check height and weight limits.
- To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements.
- Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.
And remember, the guidelines often change as new research identifies better safety practices – so check back often.
Everyday car safety for kids
According to Kids and Cars, each year many children are left alone in vehicles. The potentially tragic consequences of this carelessness are staggering – kidnappings, heat stroke, accidentally setting the car in motion, injury from power accessories, getting trapped in the trunk and even fatal crashes have all occurred when a child was left alone in a vehicle. Accidents can even happen in your own garage or driveway. Never leave your child unattended inside a vehicle!
Some additional tips:
- Follow the usual defensive driving habits to avoid accidents on the road, keeping all the more alert since your most precious “cargo” – your kids – are with you.
- When driving somewhere with your child, put something you'll need – your phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case – on the floor board in the back seat.
- Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle when you reach your destination, to make sure no child has been left behind. For more rationale on this, check out the government’s “Look Before You Lock” website.
- Keep a large stuffed animal in the child's car seat when it’s not occupied. Then, when the child is placed in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It's a visual reminder: anytime that animal is up front you know the child is in the back.
- When a child is missing, check vehicles and car trunks immediately.
- If a child is locked inside a vehicle, get them out as quickly as possible. If they are hot or appear sick, call 911 or your local emergency number.
For more information on car safety for kids, visit the Kids and Cars website.