Buh-bye 2020, hello 2021. We are ready! We wish you a Happy, Healthy and Safe New Year with these 21 child car safety tips to remember this year — and every year.
1. Stick with the most basic. Have everyone buckle up for every drive, no matter how short. You can’t get any more basic than that. It may not seem like your kids listen to you but they are watching you so set a good example. Most crashes happen within 5 to 10 miles of your home
2. Defense is the best offense. There are about 5 million reported car crashes every year. These crashes result in about 35,000 deaths. Virtually every car crash involves at least one negligent party. The best way to protect yourself from injury is to avoid a crash in the first place. Stay sober, go the speed limit and probably most importantly, stay aware of what is going on around your car. Learn defensive driving techniques.
3. Stop driving distracted. Text messaging increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by two times and resulted in drivers taking their eyes off the road for an average of 23 seconds total. Learn more about this dangerous driving habit here.
4. Start from the beginning! There are inherent risks associated with driving during pregnancy. Learn what these risks are and how to mitigate them as much as possible to keep your unborn baby safer when you are driving while pregnant. Using the Tummy Shield, a maternity seat belt adjuster, to safely redirect the seat belt away from the pregnant belly is one of those tips. Read more tips for driving during pregnancy here.
5. Know the minimums. Remember that following your state’s law may be the minimum requirement and not necessarily what is safest. It is good to know what your state’s child restraint law is so you know what is legally required and can choose what is safest based on best practice from there. You can learn your state’s car seat law here.
6. Reach for the best. There are 4 stages of car seats (after prenatal). Know what they are and when it’s considered safest based on best practice recommendations to move to the next stage. You can read about the 4 stages and when to move up on our 4+ cheat sheet download when you sign up here.
7. Do some reading. Your car seat manual is full of information and teaches you about the various parts of the car seat and what they do. It also gives installation instructions. So pull out that booklet and grab a cup of coffee and have a read. If you lost your manual, find your car seat manufacturer’s website to download a manual. (Here is a direct link to manuals for a few popular brands: Baby Trend, Britax, Chicco, Evenflo, and RideSafer)
8. Do some more reading. When you read your car’s owner’s manual you find out things like what positions the LATCH hardware is in, whether you can use LATCH in the center seating position (the safest spot in the car if you have just one child and can get a good car seat install there) and seat belt locking mechanism.
9. Try before you buy. Did you know many stores (at least pre-Covid) allow you to take car seats out and try them in your car before you buy. This is a great idea because you want to make sure the car seat you select will fit in your car and that you will be able to install it.
10. Backward is best. Children should remain rear facing for as long as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics has been recommending until at least 2 for more than 10 years now. Some state’s have started changing their laws to reflect this recommendation. And rear facing is 5 times safer even for older children so keep your child rear facing as long as possible but at least until 2. Read why rear-facing is so important here.
11. Pull the one inch test. When installing a car seat you want it tight. Not necessarily so tight you wiggle the whole when testing it. Tight enough that it moves less than one inch side to side and forward and back when pulling at the belt path (where the seat belt goes through or LATCH is connected). See a video example here.
12. Check if it’s pinchy. You also want the harness strap tight over the child. Tighten the harness on the child and try to pinch it between your thumb and fore finger. If you can pinch the webbing together the harness is still too loose. Get more description on harness straps here.
13. Get it checked. Think you did all of the above right? Think again. Studies show 96% of parents think they did it right. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 59% of car seats are installed incorrectly and 75% or more of car seats are found to have some sort of misuse, the percentage varies depending on the study. Best thing to do is to have it checked by a certified child passenger safety technician. No, just going to the local fire station will not do.
14. Look before you move. In the U.S. thousands of children are killed or seriously injured every year because a driver backing up didn’t see them. Often backovers occur when a car is backing out of a driveway or parking space. Frontovers are common too. Learn more about backovers from KidsandCars.org.
15. Look before you lock. An average of 38 children die in hot cars every year. Most parents think it could never happen to them, they would never forget, but even the best parents can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in the car. Often this happens when a sleepy parent does something outside of the routine. Get more info on hot cars here.
16. Keep warm without the coat. Winter coats and car seats don’t mix well. During a crash the bulk of the winter coat will compress then the harness straps could be too loose over of the child. This causes a dangerous situation. Learn more about winter coats here.
17. No snacking in the car. As silly as it sounds, don’t give your child food or drinks in the car. What happens if your child starts choking? Or you believe they are? Your parental protective instincts may take over and cause you to make poor choices in how, when and where to pull over to address the issue. This can put you and your baby in harms way. Learn more about eating in the car here.
18. Big kids need to be safe too. Although many states don’t require children to be in car seats after a certain age, like 6 or more commonly 8, it is recommended that children remain in a child restraint until they can pass the 5-step seat belt fit test. This typically doesn’t happen until the child reaches 4’9” which may not happen until the child is 10 or even 12 or older. Get more car seat tips for big kids here.
19. More kids equals more car seats. Studies show parents don’t always require all children to buckle up properly when driving carpool. All children should be properly buckled even during carpools. Read more carpool tips here.
20. Keep safety in mind when traveling with children. It is recommended that you use a car seat on an airplane for infants and young children. Plus if you drive anywhere your destination you’ll need a child restraint. There are some light weight seats or alternatives like the RideSafer you can use for travel. Get more travel with kids tips here.
21. Buckle up in taxis and ride shares (ie. Uber and Lyft). Most state’s laws don’t require children to be in a car seat when using a taxi. Ride shares are not a PUC regulated vehicle so car seats may be required in Uber or Lyft rides. (It depends on the state and how they interpret “car for hire”.) However, the laws of physics don’t change depending on the vehicle you are riding in. Taxis and ride shares do get into crashes too. To be safe you and your child should ride properly buckled in a ride share car. If you take these types of rides often with a child 3 year old or older, be prepared with a RideSafer vest, a lightweight, portable child restraint.
We hope you remember these child car safety tips throughout the year and follow our social media through the year for more car seat tips and safety trivia.
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
Copyright 2021 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. You may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material without permission. You are welcome to link to Safe Ride 4 Kids or share on social media.