Even if you buy a car that's top-rated for safety, you'll still want to take precautions to keep you and your little one safe on the road. You can't control other drivers, but you can make your car safer in the case of an accident. It doesn't take an accident for problems to happen either, think ahead so you and your child are safe from the moment you hop in the car, until the moment you arrive at your destination.
It only takes a loose seat belt or an improperly buckled harness to ruin a car seat's effectiveness. Even if you've installed a car seat before, take time to read the manual to make sure you've installed the car seat correctly. If you're not confident you've installed the car seat correctly, you can always get it checked for free by a professional. Safercar.gov, a program sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides a list of car seat inspection stations so you can make sure not only that your car seat is secure, but also that you know how to buckle up your child correctly. Local hospitals and police departments sometimes sponsor car seat checks, so contact the agencies in your town, as well.
Securing Seat Belts and Locks
Once kids are ready for a booster seat, talking to them about keeping the seat belts buckled and doors locked becomes a big deal. Cars come with child locks for a reason. While it may be handier to allow kids to open the doors themselves, you don't want it to happen in the middle of the highway. "A simple rule is that the car doesn't move until everybody is correctly secured, kids and adults," says Dr. Charles Shubin, a pediatrician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. If kids come unbuckled or try to open the door during a drive, stop at the nearest safe spot and remind them of the rule.
You may know better than to text and drive, but your cell phone isn't the only distraction. If your kids have DVD players and tablets in the back, give them headphones so the blips, bleeps, and other loud sounds don't distract you while you drive. Safe Ride 4 Kids also recommends not using items such as baby mirrors because looking at your baby or child could become a bigger distraction. The organization advises parents that focusing on the road is the easiest way to avoid an accident while driving. If you notice something in the car takes your focus off the road, try to eliminate the distraction; pull over in a safe place to do so, if necessary. Turn down the music, put your phone on silent, and remind your kids to keep quiet while you drive.
Stories about parents leaving kids in the car continue to make the news. According to Safe Ride 4 Kids, an average of 40 children die from heatstroke each year after being left in a car. That's not all that can happen -- kids playing around in a car can accidentally knock the car into gear or cause other problems. There's also the rare danger of the car being stolen with the kids strapped tightly in the back seat. Easy ways to remember your kids include putting a sticky note on your steering wheel, setting a reminder on your phone, or placing your purse or wallet in the back seat so you'll see the kids when you retrieve it. If you need to run into the grocery store, take your kids with you. All it takes is a few moments for things to go awry.