Every parent wants to keep their child safe and protected, but when it comes to cars there are many safety concerns to take into consideration both inside and outside the vehicle to ensure the safety of children. Anyone driving with children, parents and caregivers alike, should be familiar with the following safety topics.
Children younger than 13 should always ride in the back seat, in the appropriate type of car seat based on their age and weight. Babies and toddlers should be in rear facing car seats until the age of two as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics or until they reach maximum height and weight for their seat. Rear-facing seats protect the delicate head, neck, and spine of tiny passengers by absorbing the shock of a crash into the shell of the car seat. A rear facing car seat should never be strapped into the front passenger seat as the passenger air bag could cause serious injuries if it deploys in a crash.
Once a child moves to a front facing car seat, they should be kept in a five-point harness for as long as possible until they have reached the weight and height limits of their seat. Although some young people assume they have reached an age where they no longer need a booster seat, the standard is determined by height, not by age. To remain safe, children need to use a booster seat until they reach the height of four feet nine inches. Without a booster, the lap belt is incorrectly positioned over the location of many vital organs that can be severely damaged in an accident. Parents should not let children ride the front seat, as this is the most dangerous place in a car for a young child to be sitting.
Always read the manual that comes with any child car seat. If the seat is not properly installed, it can do more harm than good in the event of a crash.
If your car gets rear ended or is involved in any kind of crash, loose objects inside the car quickly become flying projectiles that could easily injure babies and children. Keep toys and books safely stashed in a seat pocket. Heavy items should be secured in the trunk with cargo anchors. If you have a vehicle with an open back, never pile items in a way that they could launch into the passenger side of the vehicle. Pets should also be safely restrained with a harness, or they can travel in a crate or carrier.
Summer weather is upon us, making heatstroke prevention an important safety issue for children in cars. A child should never be left alone in a vehicle even for short errands. A child’s body temperature rises much faster than an adult’s – as much as three to five times. In a closed automobile the inside temperature can reach 120 degrees when outside the temperature is a comfortable 70 degrees.
Make it a habit to check the back seat of the car before leaving the vehicle. Parents often do not want to disturb a sleeping baby, or even forget the baby is there, as it may be difficult to see while in a rear-facing car seat. Busy, sleep deprived parents should always keep something important, such as a handbag, a cell phone, or their left shoe on the backseat floorboard as a reminder that the backseat is occupied. For children under 15, heat stroke is the leading cause of vehicle-related death, after car crashes.
Some heatstroke accidents happen because a child gets into the car alone without the adult realizing it. This can be prevented by keeping vehicles locked and keys secured where children cannot reach them. Teach children that the car is not a place to play or hide, and keep rear seats upright so that small children cannot crawl unnoticed into the trunk space from inside the car.
Power windows are also dangerous for children, and can cause injuries to the fingers, wrist, hands, and can even cause strangulation. If you have child safety locks for windows, be sure to use them, but also teach your children not to play with window switches or stand on arm rests. When you are parked or away from your car, never leave the key in the ignition or in the “on” or “accessory” position.
Many children are seriously or fatally injured each year in back over accidents. Teaching your child how to stay safe around cars could save their life. They should be instructed never to play around parked cars, how to recognize when a car’s reverse taillights are on, and what a reverse warning alert sounds like on larger vehicles. It is never too soon to learn how to check the area for cars by looking both ways before setting out on foot.
Drivers should know to do a walk around the back of the car before getting in so that they can be sure there are no small children playing behind or underneath the vehicle. If there are children playing in the area, it is best to have them line up to one side of the driveway or on a sidewalk so that they are visible to you as you back up. Once inside and preparing to back out, check mirrors carefully in addition to using back up cameras before slowly moving the car. Keeping the radio off and rolling down the windows is also a good idea so that you can hear what is going on around you. Continue to check your mirrors as you leave because children’s behavior can be sudden and unpredictable.
Stayin safe requires education and vigilance. Following these suggestions can help keep your children safe both inside and outside cars this summer and in every season.
If your child was injured in an accident caused by the negligence of another driver, contact our experienced Delaware car accident lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. for help. To schedule a free consultation about your case, call 302-656-5445 today or contact us online. With locations in Wilmington and Millsboro, Delaware, we proudly serve clients throughout New Castle County and Sussex County.