Keeping Kids Safe in Cars
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The summer travel season is just upon us, and families everywhere are packing up to head on summer vacations. As a parent of four young children, I know how hectic it is to prepare for vacations. Finding all the clothes, swimsuits, towels, life jackets, sunscreen, bug spray, snacks for the car, and so much more! However, one detail many families overlook is taking time to check to see if their children’s car seats are safe and used appropriately.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children over one year of age, and statistics show that over 75% of seats are misused in some fashion. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, recommends that children ride in rear-facing car seats as long as possible or until a minimum of age two, forward facing harnessed car seats as long as possible or to the maximum height and weight of the seat, and that they use a belt positioning booster until they are 4’9” tall or the belt fits them like an adult crossing the center of their shoulder and staying low on their hips. All children under age 13 should ride in the back seat for optimal protection in a crash.
The best way to make sure your car seat is installed correctly is to make an appointment with a certified child passenger safety technician to check your seat and teach you how to install and use it correctly. You can find a tech near you at the NHTSA Car Seat Inspection website, as well as tips including videos, for help with installation. For more information about proper car seat use, please visit the Ultimate Car Seat Guide at Safe Kids USA.
Another critical summer car safety reminder is to never leave your children alone in the car. Research tells us that many parents make this fatal mistake accidentally, or that children become entrapped when entering a car to play. NHTSA has launched a heatstroke campaign, Where’s Baby? Look Before You Lock, to teach parents to always check their backseat before locking the door. Lock your unattended car in the driveway and teach children that cars are not a safe place to play.
Along with packing the sand toys and sunscreen, take time before your vacation to make sure that your children are riding safely in the car.
Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor
Michigan State University Extension