Childproofing Your Vehicle: A Comprehensive Guide to Car Safety for Families
Being a new parent can be an exciting time; however, it also comes with a whole new set of responsibilities. You are now responsible for another life in this world. From putting child-safe covers on outlets to installing safety netting on windows and balconies, the world with a small child is full of dangers you may have never noticed.
But what about your vehicle? Did you consider that you will need to childproof each vehicle to ensure your children’s safety while on the open road? And what does childproofing a vehicle even look like?
This article will discuss ways to childproof your vehicle to ensure a safe ride for you and the entire family.
Use the Right Car Seat for Your Child
Not only should children under the age of 13 sit in the back seat at all times, but you should also ensure that they are securely fastened in the appropriate car seat, depending on their age, height, and weight.
Here are some guidelines to follow:
- From birth until ages 2 to 4: When your child is a baby, you should use a rear-facing car seat, which should be placed in the middle seat of the back seat. The middle seat is the safest position for a car seat. Children should be placed in rear-facing car seats with a harness until they reach the car seat’s maximum height or weight limit.
- Until 5 or 6 years old: Once your child has outgrown their first car seat, they should be securely fastened into a seat that’s now forward-facing. The seat should come with a harness, and you can use this car seat until your child reaches the maximum height or weight limit of the seat.
- Until 9 to 12 years old: After they have outgrown the front-facing car seat, they are ready for a booster seat. Your child should be securely fastened into a booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly. Proper seat belt fit typically occurs when children are between 9 to 12, depending on their size.
Activate Child Locks
Imagine taking your child on their first camping trip to get them off their screens and into the wilderness, and they suddenly open the door as you are cruising down the freeway at 70 miles per hour. This is an incredibly dangerous and scary scenario that can easily be prevented by making sure the child locks on your back passenger doors are activated.
Activating the child locks in your vehicle is easy. Simply open both rear passenger doors and find the metal toggle switches that turn the child locks on and off and flip them on.
Arriving at your destination does not have to be the only goal of traveling. It’s an incredible way your kids to learn about the joy of the journey. It’s time spent together, fun playing games, and experiencing beautiful scenery along the way; however, do it safely. Always keep the passenger windows locked. Most vehicles have a window lock button on the window control panel on the driver’s side front door.
Ensure the window lock button is pushed in to prevent your child from opening the windows on their own and hanging their head or limbs out the window. Also, keeping the windows closed can help prevent rocks or other debris from flying into the car and striking your child.
Secure Unused Seat Belts
Unsecured seat belts could pose a strangulation hazard to your child if left unbuckled. Before starting the car, you should secure all unused seatbelts by buckling in the belt, slowly pulling the shoulder strap out, and slowly releasing it until you hear a clicking sound. The clicking sound means that the retractor is in the locked position and will remain tight enough that your child will be unable to pull on the belt.
Secure All Items in Your Vehicle
Any item not secured in your vehicle could become a dangerous projectile in the event of a car crash. Sports equipment, toys, tools, and essentially anything heavy or hard could potentially become dangerous if you are in an accident, hit a speed bump, or take a corner too fast. Protect your child by putting all heavy and hard items in the trunk of your car or the back of your truck, van, or SUV or by ensuring that the items are properly secured.
Conduct Regular Car Safety Checks
It’s crucial to check the safety of your car at regular intervals, especially if you’re often traveling with children. Your tires are what keep your car on the road, so proper tire maintenance is essential. Check tire pressure regularly and ensure tires have enough tread for better control.
Also, don’t forget the brakes. These should be checked every six months to ensure the brake pads aren’t worn out.
Other Tips for Kid’s Car Safety
Young Children Need To Sit in the Back
Most states and provinces in the US and Canada have laws barring children under the age of 13 from riding in the front seat of a vehicle. Even if it is not technically illegal, it is still highly recommended that children 12 and under ride in the back since airbag deployments can kill young children in the event of an accident.
Another thing to consider, even if your child is 13 or older, is that if they are smaller than average in size, you may consider keeping them on the back seat until they get a little bigger.
Never Eat in the Car
It may be tempting to eat in the car, especially on longer road trips. However, eating in the car is not only a distraction for the driver, but it is also a choking hazard for a young child. If you need to eat while traveling a longer distance, either stop at a restaurant and eat inside or park the car until everyone has finished eating. This will also help beat the boredom kids may feel on a long trip.
Never Leave the Keys in the Vehicle
Kids are curious beings, and you would be surprised how observant they can be and how much they learn by watching you. For this reason, you should never leave your keys in the vehicle. Leaving keys in your car unattended is a recipe for disaster. A child may be able to access the car keys, start the engine, disengage the parking brake, and even put the car into gear.
Never Leave Children Unattended in a Vehicle
Finally, never leave your child unattended in or around vehicles. Even if left alone for a short while, a child could be in danger of dehydration, heat stroke, overheating, injury, hypothermia, abduction, and even death.
In the summer months, even with a window cracked, temperatures in a vehicle can easily reach up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. A child can easily die if their core temperature reaches 107 degrees. Also, a child’s body temperature can rise five times faster than the average adult’s. Heat stroke is the number one cause of non-crash-related deaths in kids under 15.
Aside from heat stroke, dehydration, and overheating, an unsupervised child in a vehicle is more likely to injure themselves. Additionally, leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is extending a welcome invitation for abduction. For these reasons, you should never leave a child alone in a vehicle, even for one minute.
About the Author:
Ryan Harris is a copywriter focused on eLearning and the digital transitions going on in the education realm. Before turning to writing full time, Ryan worked for five years as a teacher in Tulsa and then spent six years overseeing product development at many successful Edtech companies, including 2U, EPAM, and NovoEd.