Statistics show more children are born in the summer than any other time of year. As such, thousands of new parents will soon face important decisions in order to keep their newborn bundles of joy safe and happy. In order to help keep your family safe in the car, we’ve compiled five of the most important safety tips new families need to know.
- Use the proper child safety restraint for your child’s age, and make sure it’s installed properly. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, 7 of 10 car seats are not installed properly. Consult both your vehicle’s owner’s manual and child seat safety instructions to ensure proper fitting and use. Many parents also attempt to use child seats that are far too large for their children. Ensure the seat you’re using not only supports your child’s height and weight, but also conforms to state and federal mandates.Not sure if you’ve picked the right seat or installed it properly? Local events sponsored by Safe Kids Worldwide can verify your car seat installation. To find an event near you, go to: http://www.safekids.org/events/field_type/check-event
- Keep harness straps snug, straight, flat, and the harness’s chest clip is level with your child’s armpits. When properly used, a child seat’s harness can distribute forces encountered in a collision at the strongest points of a child’s body. Keeping harness straps straight, flat, and as snug as possible, along with placing the chest clip at the same level as the child’s armpits reduces the chance of injury.
- Keep your children in rear-facing child seats as long as possible, or at least through age 2. Rear-facing child seats are preferable due to how they support your child in case of an accident. In a collision, a rear-facing seat supports a child’s head, neck, and torso. A forward-facing seat secures the body, but not the head, meaning a child might be more susceptible to severe neck injuries in a collision. Use a rear-facing seat until your child outgrows the height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer.
- Don’t allow kids under 3 years old to eat or drink in the car unless an adult is seated next to them. It’s difficult to keep tabs on kids at all times, especially if they’re seated in rear-facing child seats. As such, it might be possible for kids to choke on food or drink without the driver noticing. Only allow snacking if an adult is seated nearby to monitor and assist in an emergency.
- Never leave a child alone in the car, not even for a second. This is especially true in the summer. Research shows if a car is parked in temperatures between 72 and 96 degrees Fahrenheit, it takes only 10 minutes for its interior temperature to jump 19 degrees. After 30 minutes, a car’s interior temperature rises by 34 degrees. Further, a child’s body temperature rises nearly three times quicker than an adult’s. Heatstroke is the #1 cause of non-crash vehicle-related deaths for children under 14.
Patti Laird is the founder of Safer Kids and Homes, a Miami-based firm that has specialized in babyproofing and child safety for over two decades.