10 Safety Tips for Young Kids and Cars

10 safety tips for young kids and cars.

young kids in car

Photo by RDNE Stock project

As a parent, the safety and security of your children is your top priority. Whether you are running errands, taking your kids to school, or taking the family on a road trip, it is essential that you and your children practice safe habits in and around cars. 

Practicing proper driving etiquette sets a good example for your little ones and can prevent distractions and unfortunate accidents. Below, we’ve listed 10 important safety tips to remember if you are driving with young kids in the car. 

Buckle up

This may be an obvious one, but it is also the most important. Make sure that you and your children are fully buckled in before going anywhere. If your children are old enough, teach them the importance of seatbelt safety to discourage them from taking their seatbelt off or wearing it improperly. 

Seat belts are designed to be one per person, so never place your child on your lap while driving or encourage kids to squeeze into a single seat when carpooling. If your child is still in a car seat or booster, make sure that they are properly secured before driving off. 

Choose the right car seat

Depending on the age, weight, and height of your child, there are a number of car seats to choose from. There are four stages of vehicle seat belts for children: rear-facing, forward-facing, booster seat, and vehicle seat. 

It is recommended that you keep your child in a rear-facing car seat until at least two years old, but since this is the safest position for children, try keeping them in the rear-facing seat as long as possible. Forward-facing seats are recommended for children ages 3 to 5, and booster seats for children from age 5 to anywhere from 8 to 12, depending on their height and weight. 

While your child may be eager to sit without a booster as they get older, they must pass the 5-Step Seat Belt Test to safely sit in the car without support.

  1. The shoulder belt should cross between the shoulder and neck.
  2. Their lower back should be against the vehicle’s seat.
  3. The lap belt should be across their thighs. 
  4. Their knees should comfortably bend at the edge of the seat. 
  5. They should be able to stay in this position for the entire trip without attempting to move, undo their seatbelt, etc.

If your child does not pass all five of these steps, it is safest to keep them in a booster seat until they are able to do so. 

Keep kids in the back as long as possible

Even if your child is old enough to pass the Seat Belt Test listed above, they should continue to sit in the back seat for as long as possible. This is especially important if your child is younger than 13, as the impact from a deployed airbag could seriously injure a smaller or younger child. 

Teach them about car safety

Teaching your children about the potential dangers of cars is crucial for their safety and development. This can mean everything from encouraging them to look both ways before crossing the street to learning why it is unsafe to distract the driver. Here are some additional tips that will keep your child safe around vehicles:

  • Teach them what a car looks like as it is reversing and to be mindful of drivers backing up, as small children can be difficult to see. 
  • Remind them to stay seated and keep their hands and belongings to themselves on car rides.
  • Encourage them to hold your hand while crossing the street or in a parking lot. 
  • Teach them to never open the door while the car is in motion. 
  • Prevent them from playing around parked cars. 

Activate child safety locks

Child safety locks exist for a reason! Make sure that your car’s doors and windows are locked while in transit to prevent children from accidentally opening them while the car is moving.

Ensure safe sleeping positions

For many parents, it may seem like the car is the only time their child gets some shut-eye. While a short nap is fine on car rides, you should avoid letting your little one sleep for long stretches. Sitting in an upright position can cause your baby’s head to slump down in the chin-to-chest position, which could, unfortunately, lead to suffocation.

If your child does fall asleep easily in their car seat, make sure you keep their seat belt or harness securely while they snooze. You should also ensure that they are using the headrests attached to high-back boosters, car seats, or the vehicle’s seat. Leaning back on a headrest prevents that slumped-over position that can be dangerous in an accident.

Check the backseat

On average, nearly 40 children die in hot cars every year. You may think that it could never happen to you, but if you are distracted or on autopilot running errands, it can be easy to forget a sleeping or quiet child. Remember to “look before you lock”, or place essential items such as your purse or keys in the back seat to serve as a reminder to check behind you. 

Avoid snacks that could become choking hazards

It’s common for parents to offer snacks to their children on car rides, whether as a distraction or to sustain them on long trips. However, a bumpy road or fast stop can cause children to begin choking on their food. If you’re driving, you may not notice that your child is choking or be able to safely reach them from the driver’s seat. 

On shorter car rides, use toys to keep children occupied instead of snacks. If you need to pack food for a long trip, try things that are free of choking hazards, such as applesauce or yogurt tubes. 

Keep your car locked

Keeping your car locked while you’re driving may be obvious, but remember to also lock your car when it is parked in your driveway or garage. If curious kids climb into an unlocked car, they could potentially lock themselves in, leading to heatstroke. Messing with the car’s controls or parking brake can also cause serious injuries, such as the car rolling into oncoming traffic. 

You should also keep your car keys out of the reach of little hands to prevent them from unlocking or starting the car on their own. With automatic unlocks and push start buttons on modern cars, it’s more important than ever to be mindful of your children playing around your vehicle. 

Set a good example

The best way to ensure your children’s safety in the car is to be a safe driver. Avoid distractions such as looking at your phone or eating, practice defensive driving habits, wear your seatbelt, and follow the rules of the road. While some accidents are unavoidable, abiding by the laws and setting a good example for your children will significantly decrease your chances of a crash. 

We encourage you to follow these tips, as well as learn what regulations your specific state has regarding child car seats. By following these guidelines, you can protect yourself and your children against preventable driving accidents. 

Written by Jennifer Bell on behalf of Carter Mario Law Firm in Hartford, CT. If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the accident lawyers at Carter Mario today. With over 30 years of experience and more than $1 billion recovered for clients like you, Carter Mario focuses on getting you the financial compensation you deserve. 

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