Whether it's for an occasional field trip or daily pick-up trips, you're likely to have children in and out of your vehicles. Here's what to do to make it a safe ride.
Never Leave Your Child Alone In a Car
- Heat stroke and other injuries can occur inside a vehicle
- If you see an unattended child in a vehicle, call 911 immediately.
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the window slightly open.
- Place something that you will need at your next stop – for example a purse, lunch, gym bag or briefcase – on the floor of the backseat where the child is sitting. This simple act could help prevent you from accidentally forgetting your child if he or she is sleeping.
- Be especially careful if you change your routine for dropping off infants or children at day care. Have a plan that if your child is late for daycare that you will be called within a few minutes.
- Teach children not to play in any vehicle.
- Always lock a vehicle’s doors and trunk – especially at home. Keep keys and remote entry devices out of children’s reach.
- Watch children closely around vehicles, particularly when loading and unloading. Check to ensure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination. Do not overlook sleeping infants.
- Never leave a car with the motor running and the doors unlocked. Curious children could enter and engage the vehicle.
- Restrain all children in the age and weight appropriate child restraint when in a car with the motor running. That will limit access to power windows. Never leave children unattended.
- Treat seat belts as you would any cord or rope. Do not allow children to play with them at any time.
- For the best possible protection, keep your baby in a rear-facing child safety seat in a back seat for as long as possible - up to the height or weight limit of the particular seat. The "12 months and 20 pounds" rule that many parents cite when turning their child forward-facing in the car is actually the minimum size and age requirement for that change. New recommendations suggest that children remain rear-facing to age 2.
- Keep a baby rear-facing in a convertible seat until he or she reaches the maximum height or weight allowed by the manufacturer. For many children that will be 30, 35 or even 40 pounds. Many kids will be over age 2 when they reach that weight. Rear-facing occupants are safest.
- Use your baby’s car seat rear-facing and semi-reclined to no more than 45 degrees, so the baby’s head stays in contact with the seat and the baby’s airway stays open. Read the car seat instructions.
- Make sure the buckled harness straps that keep your baby properly positioned and secured in the car seat fit snugly. Loose harness straps don’t provide maximum protection. Be sure the harness is tight enough that you cannot pinch webbing at the shoulder.
- Position the shoulder straps through the slots at or below your baby’s shoulders.
- Adjust the chest clip to armpit level.
- Use either the car’s seat belt or LATCH system to lock the car seat into the car. Do not use both systems at the same time.
- Your car seat should not move more than one inch side to side or front to back. Grab the car seat at the safety belt or LATCH path to test it.
- Every car seat has an expiration date. Generally, it is six years from manufacture. Many have the expiration date stamped on the seat. Contact the manufacturer of your specific seat to find out what its expiration date is.
- Never buy a used car seat if you do not know its full history. Never use a car seat that has been in a crash. Avoid seats sold at flea markets or yard sales or online.
- Do not use any products that did not come from the manufacturer in or with the car seat. Car seat fabrics meet strict fire safety codes.
- Add-on toys can injure your child in a crash.
- Find the frontal airbags in your vehicle by checking the owner’s manual. Never put a rear-facing car seat in front of an active frontal airbag. Children are always safest in a back seat.
- Have your car seat checked by a currently certified child passenger safety technician to make sure it is properly installed. Click here to find a Child Car Seat Inspection Station in your area.
Preventing "Backover" or "Frontover” Tragedies
Danger can come from any direction, and parents must be aware of the risk of "backover" or "frontover" incidents. Many of these preventable injuries and deaths occur in driveways or parking lots when drivers are unaware children are near vehicles. Tragically, these drivers are often family members or friends of the injured child.
Parents, caregivers, drivers, and kids can all do their part to make sure that children do not share the same space as vehicles.
- Walk all the way around your parked vehicle to check for children - or anything that can attract a child like pets or toys - under or behind your vehicle before getting in and starting the engine.
- Accompany young children when they get in and out of a vehicle.
- Identify and use safe play areas for children away from parked or moving vehicles. Block driveways so cars cannot enter and exit.
- Designate a safe spot within a driver’s sight for children to wait when nearby vehicles are about to move.
- Firmly hold the hand of each child when walking near moving vehicles and when in driveways, in parking lots or on sidewalks.
Visit Safe Kids USA for more information about safety in and around cars.