Guest post by Jennifer Links
Everyone knows that when you have children you need to prepare your home, but did you realize you need to prepare your car for children?
Safe Ride 4 Kids already discussed how to prepare your car for baby including inspecting your vehicle for safety or buying a new vehicle with better safety features, buying the best car seat for you, installing that car seat correctly, tinting your windows, keeping the car clean and having access to a baby care kit.
As your child gets older, there are other things you can do to prepare your car for children.
While it can seem intimidating, making your car child safe is not that hard. It just takes a little research on proper seating, organization, communication and keeping up with your car maintenance.
1. Have the right car seat
Let’s start with the most stressful thing about car safety: the car seat. You’ve made it through the baby stage, your child is now a toddler or older. You’re ready for the next stage in car seats.
Take a deep breath before you sit down to look at the reviews. Everyone will have an opinion on how to choose and what is the best one. Safe Ride 4 Kids’ — and most other car seat experts’ — general rule of thumb is the right car seat is the one that fits your child, fits your car and you can install correctly every time.
There are plenty of forums that review car seats and help you decide; if you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with all the information, find a certified child passenger safety technician. Pediatricians aren’t always trained in car seats and give incorrect information.
Just remember, like much of your child’s milestones, it’s not about age but where they are in their development. Car seats are created based on height and weight of the child.
Car seats can be expensive. It is not recommended to use a second hand car seat. If you do anyway, make sure you know the owner and the history of the car seat — that it’s never been in a crash. Car seats are meant for a one time protection. The strain and impact of even a minor accident can damage seats, which is why booster/car seats need to be replaced after most crashes.
Always check for recalls and the expiration date on the second hand car seat before you use it. Look for the expiration date on either the side or back of the seat; most are good for at least six years. It is not a common knowledge that car seats do expire from both wear and because of changing safety standards.
2. Buckle up, it’s the law
All states require minors to wear seat belts, and many have child restraint laws. Seat belts are a major way to keep children and adults safe in the car. By adults setting the example of buckling up, children are less likely to question something that they always see done.
This doesn’t mean they won’t try to unbuckle when they shouldn’t. Some children try to be helpful at the wrong time; others will because they drop something that they want. Some parents are lucky and don’t experience these daredevils.
Download our report: Common Car Seat Mistakes and How to Fix Them
It becomes very important to have a talk with them about safety and staying buckled and properly seated to prevent injuries. Most children are inquisitive enough to provide you with the “why?” to start the conversation.
3. Distracted driving
Discussing car safety with your children should include distracting the driver, such as why not to throw toys or fighting with each other. You do not want to scare them, but it is important for them to understand car safety. Distracted driving is a major cause of accidents and can result from what we consider small things. It is important to try to limit your distractions as much as possible.
Limiting your distractions is one of the main reasons, car seat experts do not recommend using mirrors for children in rear-facing car seats. Many parents say, “how will I know if my child is choking?” The simple answer is don’t give your child food in the car.
4. Flying projectiles
The other reason child passenger safety technicians have historically said not to use the child mirrors is the potential they come off during a crash and become a flying projectile in the car. Some of those mirrors are hard plastic and could cause injury to passengers, including your child, during a crash.
Any object can be a projectile when stopping short or during an accident. Items on the dashboard or in the rear window, like bobble heads, have been known to fly if not secured. This makes finding a secure place to store toys and your other items important.
Items like bottles or balls should be stored somewhere they cannot get under the gas or brake pedals. There are quite a few organizers available to help if you need to keep things closer and weighted down. You don’t have to spend money to fix this; just use common sense. Storing items in the trunk of the car is safer.
Another way to limit driver distractions, keeping the children entertained.
For long trips, make sure you have some toys to keep them occupied while you focus on driving. Most children do well with books to read or color. Puzzles and stuffed animals work well to keep them from harassing you while you drive.
Children’s books on CDs are an excellent resource for kids who are prone to car sickness and are a nice alternative to hearing your child’s current musical obsession, after a while. That becomes a win for safety and sanity, which is needed on long trips.
A good idea for long or short car trips is to invest in a Bluetooth system if your car does not already have one. Most states are pushing through hands-free laws, decreasing cellphone use in the car. This keeps you more focused on the road than grabbing for your phone. It also makes your calls easier to take. Newer cars already have Bluetooth installed that you simply need to activate.
6. Maintenance is the name of the game
Everyone makes a point to service their car before summer vacations, having it serviced before school starts can save many headaches for those with children involved in sports. Making sure that your basics are up to date, like the is oil changed, window washer fluid is filled and tire pressure is good. Know your tire pressure before you fill it to avoid accidents and a popped tire.
Keep your car on a maintenance schedule like you would a doctor appointment: at least twice a year. By making these changes, you have made your car and children as safe as you can.
Jennifer Links is a writer for Action Gator Tire.
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