Childproofing the Car: Is Your Car a Safe Environment for Kids?
Employ Technology, Safe Practices & Safety Devices
to Better Protect Your Precious Cargo on the Road
By Kimberlee Mitchell,
Child & Family Safety Expert
On average your child will log about 2,000 hours in the car by her 5th birthday and close to 8,000 by age nine. It makes sense to make sure your family vehicle is as safe as possible—both under the hood and inside of the car. Vehicle safety goes far beyond buying a car seat and as your child’s protector your little ones are looking to you to cover all the bases whether you’re on a quick trip to the store or on long a road trip. I’ve updated my Childproofing the Car tips to reflect some new eye-opening car safety tips that will help you childproof your vehicle and create the safest environment possible while on the road with your family:
1) BUCKLE ALL THE TIME: Even the Empty Boosters
a. Secure empty child restraints or CRS (Child Restraint System aka car seat or booster) –especially boosters as they are loose when child is not in it. Teach your child to buckle the booster upon leaving car as they can become dangerous projectiles.
b. Make sure unused shoulder belts are not in reach of children as they can pose strangulation risk.
c. Seat belts are not for play, especially, automatic seat belts, as they can cause strangulation.
2) ELIMINATE PROJECTILES:
Anything in the car that is not secured is a possible projectile. In a crash, object takes on greater weight due to crash forces. This “new weight” can be calculated by multiplying the weight of object by the car’s speed at impact; a 5 lb. box at 25 MPH becomes a 125 lb. projectile.
a. Store all groceries, equipment, toys, etc. in trunk of car or behind last passenger seat on the floor.
b. Use “crash tested” gear in car. (baby mirrors, shade, etc.)
c. Store tethers on CRS properly so they don’t become a projectiles in a crash.
d. Pets also require vehicle restraints for the safety of the animal as well as everyone else in the car. Why? A 35 lb. pet @ 45 mph becomes a lethal 1,575 lb. projectile in a crash.
3) PROPER CAR SEAT INSTALLATION:
a. Thoroughly read BOTH car seat manual and vehicle manual from manufacturer before installation and for choosing best location for CRS in vehicle.
b. Do not use a shoulder belt with air bags to secure infant carrier or CRS. These are ideal for use with belt positioning booster seats.
d. No more than an inch of CRS movement side to side or front to back.
e. Keep rear facing for as long at CRS allows. Don’t graduate to forward facing too soon and strive toward the goal of rear facing until age 2 as child is 5x’s safer facing the rear.
4) BEST MATCH CAR SEAT FOR EVERY CHILD AT EVERY STAGE:
a. Best practice is to buy a child restraint that best fits your child, your car and offers the maximum weight, age and height limits. Retailers will allow you to see if it “fits” in your car before buying.
b. It’s important for parents to buy a child restraint that is easy for them to install so consistent, correct installation is achieved.
c. Keep your child in a booster until age 10- 12 or until he is 4 feet 9 inches tall and the seat belt fits them correctly. The law is the minimum requirement. Click ==> here to view a diagram to help you determine if your child is ready for a booster.
5) TRUNK THE PURSE:
Talking and texting is too much of a temptation and a lethal distraction for busy moms. It’s also modeling unsafe behavior for the older children who will soon be driving.
Make the car a No Phone Zone and place your phone in the purse in the trunk!
a. After securing child in the child restraint, place your purse with cell phone in it, in the trunk. You can also place it on floor in front of baby seat to help remind you that baby is in car –See #6.
b. Worried about not having your phone in an emergency? See #8 as a solution.
6) DON’T FORGET YOUR BABY IN CAR:
The death rate of children left in hot in vehicles has increased since cars seats were moved to the back seat in the early 1990’s. It can happen to the best of parents so practice prevention employing ALL or several of these tips:
a. Place your purse or cell phone on floor under the seat in front of the child’s car seat as a reminder.
b. Ask daycare provider to call you within 30 minutes after your child has not been dropped off.
c. Attach a toy the child’s car seat. After putting child in car seat attach toy to yourself as a reminder.
d. Feel free to explore phone apps and other “forget me not” tricks as additional layers of prevention, however don’t rely on technology 100% as phone batteries die and apps go out of business.
7) KEYS ARE NOT TOYS: Hide them
Many new cars have automatic-start/unlock/open remote key fobs. These keys should be out of reach and hidden from children as a child should NEVER enter a car unsupervised. Sometimes they get in and can’t get out. I know, “babies like to play with mom’s keys,” but it’s unsafe and also filthy dirty!
8) RELY ON hum: TECHNOLOGY FOR CAR HEALTH ALERTS & EMERGENCY SERVICE:
Now this is technology you can rely on. According to a survey conducted by hum by Verizon, new or expecting parents are three times more anxious about something outside of their control occurring in their vehicle and nearly half say they need more information on how to keep their car safe and secure for their family. We sport fitness wearables to keep track of our physical health, why not do the same for our car to prevent dangerous breakdowns?
- My suggested solution to that is, get hum by Verizon! Hum makes it possible for nearly every driver to become a connected car owner through simple technology that allows parents to predict car troubles before they happen, subsequently prevent dangerous breakdowns and altogether better protect your family while in the car. When weighing the roadside services offerings out there hum is the best option for busy moms offering precious peace of mind with bat phone-like connectedness to trained mechanics and emergency help at the push of a button. Hum is not connected to your mobile phone (and you don’t need to be a Verizon customer to sign up) so regardless of a dead cell battery or forgetting your phone at home, you have a safety net every time you’re in your car.
9) USE YOUR CAR’S BUILT-IN SAFETY DEVICES:
Most cars have safety devices already in their cars but often they go unused.
- Lock all windows in car using window power controls in driver seat. Avoid fingers getting pinched and items being flung out onto road.
- Lock rear child safety door locks so children cannot open doors nor can door be opened from the outside without key or you unlocking door.
- Use your back up camera to ensure clear passage before backing out. No camera? Go old school and walk around the back of the car before leaving and key a sharp eye while backing out. Honking before you back out is always smart too!
As a Child Safety Expert I am a diligent safety practitioner constantly keeping my ear to the ground gathering new findings that can help parents keep up on all things safety for their children. If you have any new products, services or knowledge that will help me in my injury prevention quest, please send me an email to keep me in the know. Drive safely!