Tips for Keeping Your Child Safe in the Car
The primary responsibility of every parent is to keep their child safe. One major area to exercise particular vigilance is over your child’s safety while in the car. This should be a concern for parents all over the country; however, it is especially important for residents of the Golden Triangle. Residence here need to remember that much of the industrial activity that keeps our local economy strong is facilitated by commercial trucking and transport over the many major interstates and highways that crisscross the area. Accidents can happen at any time, but by remembering the following key tips you’ll be able to help reduce the risk of your child being seriously injured.
Car Seats and Boosters
One of the most fundamental aspects of child safety in the car is having your child in the correct age and size appropriate car seat or booster seat. Remember that a one-size-fits-all model of car seats simply won’t work since your child’s car seat needs will evolve as he or she ages. The following is a brief overview of car seat information:
Rear-Facing Car Seats – Infants and toddlers have large heads relative their body size with weak and still-developing neck muscles. That puts them at an increased risk for head or spine injuries. To minimize this risk children under one year of age and often up to about two years of age – depending on weight and height – your child should be kept in a rear-facing rather than forward facing car seat.
Forward-Facing Car Seats – After children outgrow rear-facing car seats it is time to move them into forward-facing car seats, where they should be kept until they outgrow manufacturer weight and height limits.
Booster Seats – Children typically outgrow forward-facing car seats at around seven or eight years of age. However, at this age they may still be too young to safely wear traditional seat belts unaided. A booster seat will ensure that the seat belt stays securely across the child’s hips and chest rather than putting them at increased risk by crossing the abdomen or neck. Booster seats are often required until the child is about twelve years of age, or weight and height appropriate.
The safest place in the car for young children in car seats and booster seats is in the back seat in the middle seat. Placing the child in this location is optimal because it is furthest away from doors and windows that might be hit during the crash and also out of the way of airbags. However, it is important that the car seat or booster seat fit snugly and securely into the seat. If this is not possible in the middle seat the child should be moved to one of the rear passenger seats. Children younger than 13 should always ride in the back seat.
Child Locks and Windows
Child locks and windows are designed to keep children from being able to unlock car doors or roll down windows. They are a crucial safety feature because even very careful, vigilant parents will be unable to watch their children at every moment while driving and a moment is all it takes for a child to unlock and open a door or window.
Never leave your child unsupervised in the car. A child in a locked, sealed car is in imminent danger of heat stroke and other heat-related problems – this is true even if it doesn’t feel like a particular hot day, you park in the shade, or you are only gone for a few minutes. Remember that sealed cars act much like ovens, trapping heat and quickly becoming much hotter than outside temperatures. Cracking a window is insufficient to keep heat at bay.
A fully opened window or door, or simply a child left unattended in the car for any reason under any circumstances also puts your child at risk of abduction. Older children could also potentially release themselves from the car and wander off. A car that is left running is also a risk for a child to accidentally put the car in gear. The bottom line is to always take your child with you when you leave the car, regardless of how long you will be gone.
Car Safety Ratings
Remember too that not all cars are created equally when it comes to safety and while for the most part cars are becoming safer and safer it is not a good idea to assume that just because your car is new or a luxury model that it is necessarily as safe as an older or more economic model. To be sure always check your car’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) safety rating, which can be done on the safercar.gov website. You can also visit the http://www.nhtsa.gov website to check if there have been any recalls for your vehicle.
Selecting a safe car and correctly securing your child in the car are the crucial preliminary steps for safety. However, your responsibility as a parent and driver do not end there. It is imperative that you exercise safe, defensive driving techniques at all times. This means, among other things, observing all traffic laws, speed limits, and safe following distances and never allowing yourself to fall victim to road rage or aggressive driving. If you are unsure of best defensive driving practices or simply want a refresher, consider taking a defensive driving course, which can often be completed conveniently online and which may even qualify you for an auto insurance discount.
Golden Triangle Emergency Center is here to help. If you or your child is injured in a car-related accident, or any type of accident, don’t wait; seek immediate medical help. Some injuries may not be readily apparent, may get worse with time, or could be masked by other symptoms. Your health and your child’s health are too precious to risk. Let our friendly, attentive doctors and personnel ensure that you are well cared for.