Parent Safety Alert
Keeping your children safe in the car
Putting on lipstick, text messaging your girlfriend that you’ll be late for playgroup or chatting on the cell phone are taboo for anyone behind the wheel – but moms need to follow more than just smart driving rules to keep their little ones safe in the car (even when it’s not moving!).
1. Buckle ’em Up
Babies and young kids must be properly restrained in age-appropriate car seats or booster seats to minimize the risk of being seriously injured or killed in an auto accident. Not sure how to buckle in your child’s seat properly? Visit www.seatcheck.org to find a seat inspection location in the United States where a certified inspector can show you how to install and use your child’s seat.
Parents of tweens, don’t forget that children younger than 12 years shouldn’t ride in a seat equipped with an airbag. Airbags can deploy even in minor accidents and seriously injure or kill kids.
2. Track Kids and Keys
It is time-tested advice worth heeding: Never leave your kids or your keys in the car.
Using keys or remote access buttons, children can put cars into gear or even neutral, causing a vehicle to roll away. Additionally, kids can enter a car and trap themselves inside – perhaps without your knowledge – which increases the risk of a heatstroke-related injury or fatality. Even in temperatures as mild as 60 degrees, a closed vehicle can quickly heat to dangerous levels.
Sleep-deprived parents – don’t forget your napping babies when you exit the car. Kids and Cars, a nonprofit group that tracks auto-safety issues involving children, recommends parents use the “Look … then Lock” technique: Always open the vehicle’s back door when you reach your destination to make sure no child has been left behind. Leaving something you’ll need (your cell phone, for example) on the floor in the back seat can help you establish this habit.
3. Clear the Decks
If your minivan has soccer balls rolling between the seats or a bulky diaper bag perched on the seat next to your baby, watch out – those items could become projectiles in a crash or a sudden stop and cause serious injury.
Secure unrestrained objects and minimize carrying heavy, unrestrained cargo. Stow small stuff in the glove compartment or storage area under the seat. Larger items should be locked in the trunk or secured in a box or cargo net. Don’t forget to buckle in unoccupied booster seats, which could be launched forward during an accident.
4. Watch Your Windows
Rocker and toggle window switches in cars pose a life-threatening hazard for children. If a child pokes her head out the car window and inadvertently leans on the power-window switch, the window – which has 40 to 80 pounds of pressure – could fatally compress the child’s airway.
If your car has a dangerous switch, it’s important to remain aware of power-window perils. Use the lock-out switch near the driver, which allows only the driver to control the windows. Be sure to check where your child is before putting a window up or down, and – as always – never leave your child unattended in a vehicle.
Being aware of these hazards and employing smart strategies in and around the car are critical steps in keeping your family safe. For more information on these issues, check out the www.kidsandcars.org/ Web site.
Christine Beaudry is a freelance writer and editor specializing in pregnancy and parenting topics. She has written for local and national publications, is married and has two terrific daughters. Her family is currently living an adventurous couple of years in Costa Rica.